SMART Public place clothing recycling banks

SMART bins not smart enough to foil illegal dumping around clothing drop-off hubs.

Project information

  • Name: SMART Public Place Clothing Recycling Banks
  • Lead: SCR (Southern Cross Recycling) Group
  • Location: City of Monash
  • Themes: illegal dumping; SMART bins; bin technology

Charity bins are a really handy way to drop off preloved items for recycling or reuse. Unfortunately, these bins sometimes end up with an overspill of items and attract illegally dumped waste.

“Our research shows that most people understand that leaving their items around a drop-off hub may not be the right thing to do,” explained Alexis Todorovski, Head of Communications at SCR Group. “But there is a lack of awareness of the impact of this behaviour, or that it is an illegal act.”

“SCR Group is one of Australia's largest clothing and homewares reuse and recycling companies. Our customisable clothing drop-off hubs enable convenient public place drop-off locations for unwanted clothing, homewares and electrical goods for reuse and recycling.

A pop-up clothing and electrical drop-off hubA pop-up clothing and electrical drop-off hub

“We wanted to find out more about illegal dumping at our drop-off hubs and experiment with SMART bins and CCTV cameras to see if we could reduce it.”

What we did

“We partnered with the City of Monash to install SMART technology at bins at four sites across the municipality,” said Alexis. “Bin sensors alert drivers when drop-off hubs at are at 80 per cent capacity so they can empty bins before they are full, with the idea being that we could prevent the overspill that encourages dumping around bins.

“We had planned to use the bins in conjunction with physical interventions like installing CCTV cameras and signage but the council process for installing CCTV turned out to be more complex than anticipated.

“We decided to investigate behaviours and attitudes towards illegal dumping and the right way to use clothing drop-off hubs instead, so we could use this data to shape our approach. Swinburne University ran this community behaviour research project.”

How people feel about dumping at clothing drop-off hubs

“Swinburne university interviewed people at four sites,” explained Alexis. “As I said before, most people do know it’s not okay to leave their items around a drop-off hub.

“When we watched dumping behaviour, many people appeared to be doing so with some degree of secrecy. If there was an overflow, they were more likely to add their items to existing piles and they claimed they would feel less guilty about it.

“Motivations for leaving items were mostly based on indolence and ignorance of the logistics and individuals affected by clearing their items away. In other words, if we’ve made the effort to get to the drop-off hub but find it overflowing or our item is too large, we might just leave our stuff anyway presuming ‘someone else’ will take care of it.

“Reasons people gave for not dumping were concern for the appearance of the public space and possible damage to items that could otherwise be reused or recycled.

“So, indolence, overflow, imitation and value of items were the main influencing factors.”

SMART bins for the win?

SMART bin sensors were tracked for effectiveness, with Keep Victoria Beautiful providing an analysis report.

“The bins were a useful tool for making sure they were emptied on time with no overflow,” said Alexis. “But unfortunately, they made no difference to illegal dumping. This suggests that overflow was less of an influence than indolence, imitation or lack of education.”

Next steps

“The SMART bins are still in place and we will assess the data again in 2018. These results combined with the Swinburne research are being used to develop strategies to encourage the right behaviour at these sites.

“We know that there will probably always be some dumping around our hubs, but there is scope to influence behaviour by making people more aware that it is illegal and has a larger impact.

“We plan to build this into our messaging and incorporate more educational signage with our bins. Hopefully, we can educate people to do the right thing which will be a win for everyone.”

More information

Contact Alexis Todorovski, Head of Communications at SCR Group on (03) 9386 8702 or alexis@scrg.com.au