Pop-up recycling day

Pop-up recycling day brings all the cars to the yard.

Project information

  • Name: Pop-up Recycling Day
  • Lead: Wyndham City Council
  • Location: Tarneit, Wyndham City
  • Partners: SCR (Southern Cross Recycling) Group, Men’s Shed, West Welcome Wagon, Tanya Lewis
  • Themes: illegal dumping; access to recycling and waste disposal facilities; mobile recycling

Riddle me this. You’ve got junk lying around the house. It’s collecting a fine layer of dust, the spiders have moved in and your home looks untidy. You need to get rid of it.
The hard waste collection is months away. The nearest tip is miles away.

Do you:

(a) set off under the cover of darkness and surreptitiously dump it in a field
(b) leave it out on the nature strip in the hope that someone will take it
(c) take it to your local council’s pop-up recycling day

The correct answer for Wyndham City residents is C.

“Litter and illegal dumping costs us $2 million a year,” explained Tessa Obrien, Waste Education Officer at Wyndham City Council. “And most of the dumped items like e-waste, mattresses, clothes, cardboard could be recycled.

“We held a pop-up recycling day to give residents around Tarneit an extra collection service. Residents live quite far from a landfill, so we wanted to see if dumping was happening because the tip is too far away or too costly.

“We also wanted to test whether we could increase the amount of bulk waste that gets recycled or reused compared to the amount that gets landfilled after our hard waste collection.”

What we did

“We hired SCR Group (Southern Cross Recycling) to run the Pop-Up Drive-Thru event,” said Tessa. “They facilitated the planning, risk and traffic assessments, advised on promotion, organised staff for the day (approximately 30) and picked up of all waste streams and their associated reuse and recycled.

“Hiring a qualified provider such as SCR to coordinate the event and take care of any risks was very helpful. We had a small miscommunication as to who was managing external traffic on the day which added last minute cost and stress. So, I recommend being very clear from the start as to who is responsible for every aspect.”

Bringing cars to the drive-thru

“We ran a couple of promotional events before the Drive-Thru. Tanya Lewis, the declutter expert, hosted a ‘Declutter and simplify your Life’ workshop and promoted our event during her radio appearances.”

“We handed out postcards to shoppers at Werribee Plaza at a pop-up event, promoting the event and spreading anti-litter and dumping messages. We used really fun and inviting branding.”

“We considered a letter drop but decided to use our Wyndham newsletter instead to cut costs. The newsletter goes to all households. We also used real estate boards, social media, media release, green events and our website.”

Finding the right site

“We struggled to find the right site, ending up with a morning timeslot in a small community centre car park,” explained Tessa.

“This was not ideal as the space was big enough but we could only have it for half a day and we were sharing the car park with regular users, including children. As you can imagine, this was somewhat of a health and safety nightmare! This added cost and stress as we had to make sure we could manage traffic safely.

“Next time, we would approach sites much earlier and look for an oval away from busy roads in case there is a build-up of traffic.”

Bringing it together on the day

The accepted items on the day included furniture, electronics, mattresses, home goods, clothing, linen, whitegoods and bicycles.

“The Men’s Shed came and took all the bikes and some tools,” said Tessa. “West Welcome Wagon took some furniture, home goods and some clothing. They also helped out on the day selecting items.

“They didn’t have capacity to take all the items though so we’d look to partner with more charities and no-for-profits next time to increase reuse. The community and SKR both valued reuse over recycling.

“One lady was very upset that her freshly washed couch was crushed in front of her as she thought it would be going to a good home. If an item must be crushed for recycling or landfill, we would – with hindsight – recommend waiting until cars have moved on before doing so.

“SCR and West Welcome Wagon enjoyed working together and may partner permanently.”

Low numbers but a rapturous response

“We needed 600 cars to make the event cost-effective although our target was 1000. We didn’t get our numbers but this may be due to it being a half-day event.

“Still, the 305 cars that did come were all really happy with the event. They were excited that their items were going to a good cause or being recycled.

“SCR ran a well-organised event and this was reflected in residents’ feedback. Residents commented on how swift and easy it was to drop off items and asked us to repeat the event.

Thank you for a great community service well organised. Hope to see more of these days in the future. Brilliant idea whoever thought of it.

– Resident feedback

“We gave all attendees a waste and recycling guide and a hard waste postcard to promote our regular waste disposal options. Many households, particularly renters, didn’t realise that we have two hard waste collections each year.

“It was nice to change the messaging around waste and landfills to something positive and community-strengthening. Next time, we would market the event earlier and more widely.”
Did it affect waste diversion and dumping?

“Most items received on the day were reused or recycled making this a much better option than landfill. In total, we diverted 21.4 tonnes of materials from landfill.

“The best case scenario for recycling hard waste and tip token waste is 25 per cent. This event provided a much better diversion and environmental outcome.

“We monitored three key dumping sites in the area in the lead-up to the pop-up event and afterwards. The data is quite variable but we saw a distinct drop in dumping immediately after the event at two of the sites. Dumping went back to previous levels not long after though.

“We’ve also had more hard waste collection bookings in the last six months, although this may be related to a separate targeted campaign that we’ve been running.”

“We saw no visible change in litter reports, although these record litter across the whole municipality and we wouldn’t know if there was any change around Tarneit.”

Stressing about numbers

“We encouraged residents to register but we weren’t sure how many cars would turn up. SCR has run similar events in the past with other councils where lots of people showed up without booking.

“We were stressed about safety and being able to manage all the cars along with regular community centre users. We ended up hiring extra security.

“In the end, attendance was very close to the number of bookings. The extra security turned out to be an unnecessary cost, but it was better to be overprepared than under.”

Next steps

“We plan to run this year every year,” said Tessa. “It’s a great way to connect with the community while also improving waste collection and diverting more goods away from landfill.

“Now we know how much planning and promotion is involved and the importance of finding the right site, we hope to attract more and more people. If successful, we might change our current hard waste and tip token set-up in favour of more pop-up days or a new permanent transfer site.”

More information

Contact Tessa Obrien, Waste Education Officer at Wyndham City Council on (03) 8734 5488 (ext. 2068) or email Tessa.obrien@wyndham.vic.gov.au