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Bin colour matters

Federal Environment Minister Susan Ley supports standardised waste collection systems, including a common bin lid colour across Australia. We propose to also standardise the colour of the bin's body to maximise recycled plastic use.

By: Mike Ritchie and Dimitris Dimoliatis, MRA Consulting Group

When it comes to wheelie bins, colour matters.

Federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, at the recent National Plastics Plan launch, called for all councils and the government to work together to make kerbside collection systems standardised, including the colour of bin lids.

But what about the bin body colour?

I bet you didn’t know that the recycling content of the body of your wheelie bin (Mobile Garbage Bin or MGB) determines the amount of recycled content that can be used. 

We want to move towards a more circular economy so what better use for the plastics we collect at the kerbside than putting it back into the manufacture of the wheelie bin we collect them in?

Here is another fact you probably didn’t know.

Green coloured MGB bodies (the bulk of the bin) can only absorb 30% recycled content plastic. On the other hand, black bodies can be made using as much as 70% recycled content.

The reason is colour. The recycled plastics feedstock is mixed colour (not transparent or white) so it affects the colour of the bin. A black dye is added to black bins which therefore can contain more mixed colour recycled input than green ones.

And, because the quality of recycled plastic is lower, virgin plastic pellets must always be added to the recycled pellets to make a robust MGB.

Balancing MGB strength with maximum recycled content, means we should preference black MGBs. Using as much recycled plastic as possible in MGBs should be a no brainer.

Councils and businesses should be mandating black bodies in all bin contracts. 

The Federal government is banning the export of 300,000 t of plastic most of which is mixed colour. If every MGB in the country had a black body that would absorb a big chunk of that tonnage.

Have a look next time you put the rubbish out. Do you have a green or a black body bin?

In our Council, the Inner West Council in Sydney (one of the “greenest” councils in Australia,) bins are mostly green bodied. What a waste. Make them black and increase the recycled plastic content. Even better, standardise lid colours along with black bodies for MGBs across the country.

How simple is that!

Mike Ritchie, is the Managing Director and Dimitris Dimoliatis is Principal Consultant at MRA Consulting Group.

This article has been published by the following media outlets:

Inside Waste, 7 April 2021


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