Bin Inspection Education Program FAQs

Why are you looking in bins?

In South Australia we pride ourselves when it comes to recycling, however audits and bin inspections in the City of Onkaparinga have shown that we still have a significant amount of material going in the wrong bins.
In fact:

  • 52% of recycling bins presented at the kerb contain contaminating materials
  • over 68% of waste bins put out for collection contain easily recyclable items.

It might not seem much when you drop one or two items in the wrong bin at home however, with over 74,000 households, those ‘couple’ of items quickly become a huge number of contaminants or lost recyclables in just one week or one month and more.

Information via media, banners, website, etc. have not been enough to get people to change old habits, so this program is encouraging people to recycle right by bringing feedback directly to their doorstep. 

Did you provide any information about what you are doing?

A letter introducing the program along with a copy of the Household Recycling & Disposal Guide is placed in the letterbox of each property in the selected inspection areas at the first visit.

We have previously tried mailing out and hand delivering information (addressed ‘To the resident’) prior to starting the program, however we found that many people did not open it or read the information.

We have found that people are more likely to check the letterbox and read the information provided when they spot the feedback tags on their bin the first time. 

Who is paying for this program?

SKM Recycling funds the majority of the cost of this program, as unacceptable levels of contamination in recycling bins causes sorting problems and higher processing costs.

SKM Recycling is the company buying the contents of our recycling bins.

For council and residents, contamination means we run the risk of loads being rejected and losing that income. Rejected loads are then dumped at landfill, at significant cost, plus wasting the effort of those households who have been recycling right.

Having education programs and audits to ensure correct items are in each bin helps saves the environment, but also saves the community and council money.

What right do you have to look in my bin? That’s private / confidential.

When you put out your kerbside bins for collection, you are putting unwanted items in a council owned bin on council owned land for a council managed collection. Under South Australia's Local Government Act, the contents of bins and other rubbish put out for collection belongs to the council.

There is no law covering privacy of bin contents in South Australia. However your personal information is valuable. Always think about the best ways you can protect it. To lessen the risk of identity theft, always shred or tear up any documents before putting them in the bin.

Note: please put shredded paper in the green organics bin, NOT the recycling bin. 

Will bins still be emptied if you get alert tags?

Bins tagged with Bin Alert feedback will still be emptied. We will not stop a recycling collection for low level contamination.

Bin Alert tags are feedback that we found a small amount of inappropriate materials in the recycling bin or recyclable items in the waste bin. 

Usually this is due to people using the bins according to old information/recycling guidelines. We hope that by highlighting these mistakes, those contaminants/recyclables are then placed in the correct bins in future.

Please refer to the Household Recycling & Disposal Guide for correct disposal information. 

How do you choose which areas to inspect?

With over 74,000 dwellings in the City of Onkaparinga, our council area is so large it is divided into 21 collection zones. Inspection areas are selected as randomly as possible, considering: day (Monday-Friday), bin collections (recycling & waste bins), staff availability and collection reports.

To date we have undertaken this program with 7,803 properties across several suburbs including: 

  • Aldinga
  • Aldinga Beach
  • Christies Beach
  • Flagstaff Hill
  • Happy Valley
  • Maslin Beach
  • Morphett Vale
  • Noarlunga Downs
  • O’Sullivan Beach
  • Port Noarlunga
  • Reynella East
  • Seaford Meadows

Inspection areas for September to December 2016 are in:

  • Woodcroft
  • Morphett Vale (another section - it’s a really big suburb!)
  • Aberfoyle Park
  • Port Noarlunga South

I recycle right, why do I keep getting audited?

Change doesn’t happen easily, so our teams will cover each inspection area 4-6 times. Our bin inspectors provide feedback solely on what is seen in each bin at the time. They have no information about who lives at a property or who put what in any bin. 

Many people have asked for feedback, even when positive, and we are going past all these houses anyway! Why not consider the positive feedback tags as a way to show off how YOU are making a positive impact on the environment and the future.

Also, properties which receive a ‘Thank You’ tag on both their waste and recycling bins automatically go in a weekly draw to win a $50 Visa gift card. 

We recycle right, why don’t you go pick on areas that don’t!

We have undertaken this program across twelve suburbs so far and location does not seem to make much difference regarding how well people use the kerbside recycling service.

On average*:

  • 52% of recycling bins out for collection contain contaminating materials
    (results range from 36.7-55.3%)
  • 11.1% of recycling bins contain unacceptable levels of contamination
    (results range from 5.3-16.5%)
  • 68.6% of waste bins put out for collection contain standard recyclable items
    (results range from 59.3-78.6%)
  • 0.7% waste bins contain prohibited materials - items banned from going to landfill
    (results range from 0.4-1.2%)

These might not seem like high numbers, however with over 74,000 households in our city:

  • 11.1% highly contaminated recycling bins = 5,700+ bins EVERY fortnight!
  • 0.7% waste bins containing prohibited materials = 400+ waste bins with illegal contents EVERY week!

Change does not happen easily, so our teams cover each inspection area 4-6 times to encourage people to recycle right and use the kerbside bin system as effectively as possible, saving council and residents money in the long run.

* based on inspections of 43,170 waste bins and 39,155 recycling bins. 

What are soft plastics? 

Soft plastics are pliable, ‘scrunchy’ plastics that you can squeeze in your hand like plastic bags. Soft plastics include:

  • plastic bags of all types (bread bags, shopping bags, freezer bags, lolly or chip bags, etc.)
  • plastic wrappers (magazine or newspaper sleeves, biscuit or lolly wrappers)
  • reusable bags (Ziploc or Snap lock bags)
  • bubble wrap
  • bladders (from water or wine casks)

If you are keen to recycle as much as possible, why not collect clean soft plastics in a bag and when full, drop it off at Coles in their special collection bins. These bins are available at all Coles stores in the City of Onkaparinga. Find out more information here.

Alternatively, soft plastics should go in the red/waste to landfill bin. 

Can I put my excess recyclables into my neighbours recycle bin?

No matter what situation, you can only place materials in another property’s bins if you have the permission of the resident/homeowner/business.

Placing materials in bins without permission is a form of illegal dumping.

I cut back my neighbours tree hanging over my fence… can I put the green waste into their green bin as mine is already full?

For information regarding disposal of a neighbour’s overhanging tree branches, please refer to the Trees page in the Law Handbook of South Australia. 

Why is the red/waste bin inspected? 
Aren’t all items OK to go into the red bin, especially if the other bins are at capacity?

We inspect the waste to landfill bins:

  • to check that they do not contain items prohibited from landfill. Prohibited items include:
    • electrical items e.g. toaster, kettles, televisions, etc.
    • fluoro lights
    • non-alkaline batteries
    • hazardous chemicals e.g. pesticides, paint, cleaning chemicals, etc.
    • cooking / motor oil
    • building materials
  • to help ensure valuable recyclables are not going to waste. Once something goes into landfill, it is a lost resource. Most recyclable materials can be recycled many more times or even indefinitely (such as glass).

Audits of bins in the City of Onkaparinga have shown that we still have a significant amount of recyclables going into waste bins. In fact:

  • 68.6% of waste bins put out for collection contain standard recyclable items such as paper, cardboard, pet food containers, milk bottles, margarine tubs and more.

It might not seem much when you drop one or two items in the wrong bin at home; however, with over 74,000 households, That’s approximately 43,000 bins EVERY week. So those ‘couple’ of items quickly become millions of lost recyclables in just a few weeks.

We encourage recycling as, apart from being great for the environment, recycling costs us (and therefore you) much less than dumping in landfill.

If you regularly fill your bins, additional bins are available for an annual fee. Find out more information.

What do you do with this information? 

The data gathered as part of the inspections helps to provide feedback to our community to encourage positive change. It also assists us with managing and future planning our kerbside collection services.

Data recorded:

  • how full bins are when put out for collection
  • is there any incorrect/prohibited materials in bins
  • which types of incorrect materials are in bins.

Information regarding bins rejected due to unacceptable levels of contamination is recorded against the property address only.

We also record names of winners of the lucky draw, for our financial auditing requirements.

I can put whatever I want in my bins - you have no right to tell me what I have to do.

We all produce rubbish and all rubbish goes somewhere.

As part of any community, we all need to take responsibility for the waste we produce and for sorting our discards into the appropriate bin or disposing of it appropriately.  Sorting at the point of production is the most efficient and cost effective way to do this. Not doing it costs everybody!

When you put our your kerbside bins for collection, you are putting unwanted items in a council owned bin on council owned land for a council managed collection. We have the right to reject collection if the bins are not being used appropriately, thereby compromising the service.

Ongoing contamination of recycling and green organics bins may result in the service being suspended and bins removed. If this occurs, application for return of service must be made to council and an impoundment fee may apply.

Why hasn’t the truck picked up my bin?

Collection times may be delayed on the days of the bin inspection program - until after the inspection teams have completed their work.  If bins have not been on your usual collection day please contact our Customer Relations team on 8384 0666.

Bins that contain unacceptable levels of contamination (recycling bin) or prohibited materials (waste bin) are marked for non-collection until those incorrect items are removed.

Please refer to the Household Recycling & Disposal Guide for correct disposal information.

Can I get my bin emptied if I remove the contaminants?

Yes, if you call our Customer Relations team on 8384 0666 within 24 hours.

The collection driver will confirm the contaminants or prohibited materials have been removed before emptying the contents.

Please refer to the Household Recycling & Disposal Guide or visit our online disposal guide for correct disposal information.

How do I enter the Recycle Right competition?

You enter the lucky draw simply by taking the time to ensure your bins only contain acceptable materials.

As part of this program, if you receive ‘Thank You’ tags on both your recycling and waste bins, you automatically go in a weekly draw to win a $50 Visa gift card. Winners will be notified by phone or mail.

If you live in a strata or multi-unit residence please note your unit number clearly on your bin to help us identify you, so that we can include you in the lucky draw.

Why can’t small hard waste items go in the red/waste bin?

Where appropriate, small waste items can go in the red/waste bin.

Our hard waste collection service assists residents to dispose of items that are too bulky to go in the waste bins. This includes white goods, and other unwanted household items such as furniture, tools and large toys.

However, not everything goes to landfill! Metal items put out in hard waste collections are collected separately for recycling.

Certain items are not accepted in hard waste collections due to:

  • other recycling options available (apart from kerbside bins)
  • landfill bans
  • manual handling concerns
  • potential damage to the collection vehicle

Find out more information about the hard waste collection service.