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Bring on the black bin- bin colour matters

Australia generates 316,000 tonnes of HDPE plastic per year. Most is landfilled. If every MGB in Australia was required to be black, that alone would absorb 258,000 t of HDPE by adding 10.4kg of recycled content to every MGB at every home.

By: Mike Ritchie, MRA Consulting Group

A few months ago, with my colleague Dimitris, we wrote an article that bin colour matters. The key point of the article was that green bodied garbage bins (MGB’s) could only contain 35% recycled content HDPE making up the body of the bin. Black bodied bins could contain 80% recycled content.

The reason is simple. The black dye used in the black bodied bin can disguise the recycled content mixed colour polymers better than the green dye.

If you use higher recycled content with a green dye you end up with blotches of colour and an ugly (uglier) bin.

Black disguises the mixed colours better.

At the time we noted that the National Standard for bin colours allows for both green and black bodies on all household bins.

We recommended that standard be changed to require black bodies on all MGB’s in Australia.

We received overwhelming support for that article including support from the bin manufacturers.

So now the question is why can’t we just do it?

I have now spoken to Standards Australia to recommend they make exactly that change.

I hope they follow through.

Australia generates 316,000 tonnes of HDPE plastic per year. Of that only 7% is recycled content with 93% virgin material. This is mostly used to make milk bottles, most of which eventually end up as waste (Australian Packaging Consumption and Recycling data 2018/19 APCO Jan 2021). 

In fact, of the 316,000 tonnes we place on the market, we only recycle about 73,000t. Almost all of that (58,000t) is recovered through kerbside recycling (households) with only 14,000 recovered through commercial services.

Put another way there is over 240,000 t of HDPE per year entering the market which is currently going to landfill.

On my maths if every MGB in Australia was required to be black, that alone would absorb 258,000 t of HDPE by adding 10.4kg of recycled content to every MGB at every home.

Given that MGB’s have a useful life of about 15 years that is equivalent to 17,200 t/yr of additional recycling (at no cost to anyone).

And those figures don’t include commercial waste bins, just domestic.

So come on Standards Australia. Change the national standard for bins to black bodied bins across all applications in Australia. Once that is done, when councils specify bins be made to Australian Standard (which is what they do now), bins will all be black. Problem solved.

The alternative is that each and every council in Australia, all 540 of them, will each need to specify independently that they only want black bodied bins. Clearly having Standards Australia do it once is more efficient and transparent.

Standards Australia will no doubt want to consult industry and local government prior to any such change, so any councils going to tender now, will need to specify black bodies themselves.

Special note to Environment Minister Sussan Ley and Recycling Minister Trevor Evans – This is an easy win.

Let’s do it tomorrow.


Mike Ritchie, is the Managing Director at MRA Consulting Group.


MRA would like to thank the City of Melton for providing the featured image of the three black bins.

This article has been published by the following media outlets:

Inside Waste, 7 April 2021


 

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