Solar bin project

Solar-powered smart bins reduce litter in Greater Shepparton.

Project information

  • Name: Solar Bin Project
  • Type: Infrastructure
  • Lead: Greater Shepparton City Council
  • Location: Sports precinct, Numurkah Road and Victoria Park Lake, Shepparton
  • Themes: solar bins; garbage compaction; bin technology; smart bins; parks; park litter; sports precinct

The eternal war on litter is fought on many fronts. We constantly encourage people to do better, but what if we could make our bins do better?

While bins might not be ready to pick up litter for us or chase us down the street for putting a drink can in the wrong bin, new hi-tech bins can give councils an edge.

For example, solar-powered bins can compact trash, holding up to eight times more waste than non-compacting bins and reducing collection frequency by up to 80 per cent. New bin sensors can tell you in real-time when bins are ready to be emptied.

“We recently upgraded the sports precinct on Numurkah Road,” said Hilary Grigg, Waste Education Officer at Greater Shepparton City Council. “We have lots of sporting games and events in the area, as well as a McDonald’s nearby. So, we see quite a bit of litter. 

“We installed new bin technology to see if we could get members and visitors to use bins instead of throwing litter in the sportsground and car park. We also wanted to see how many times a week these compacting bins would need to be emptied, compared to the regular bins which we usually empty twice a week.”

Bins go solar

“We installed solar-powered bins called Clean Cubes in the main car park and on a walkway between the tennis courts and the soccer oval,” explained Hilary. “We put the bins in visible, open spots to ensure they would be seen and get enough sun to work properly. 

“We made the bins stand out using brightly coloured bin wraps and signs with clear information on what materials could be put in each bin. We also advertised the bins on social media.”

Monitoring bins

“We installed Clean Caps in two bin cages in high-use areas at Victoria Park Lake in Shepparton. Clean Caps have sensors to monitor when the bin is full. 

“This area is busy seven days a week and bins are often overflowing by the time they get collected. Clean Caps were installed near the skate park and the all abilities playground so we could tell at what point of the week these bins start to get full.” 

Did the high-tech bins deliver?

“Before installing the bins, we collected about 10 to 20 fast-food wrappers and bottles in the car park on any given day,” said Hilary “Now we see as low as five items of litter per week. 

“In fact, we still hadn’t emptied the solar bins by the end of this project, but they were installed in the off-season. They will be used more as the precinct gets busier and we’ll keep monitoring litter and Clean Cube use for more meaningful data. 

“Meanwhile, the sensors at Victoria Park Lake showed that Saturday evenings are particularly busy. We have since looked into changing collection times and are investigating using bigger bins.

“Council staff commented on the great colour of the solar bins, and some parks and recreation staff are interested in having them installed around Victoria Park Lake.”

What we could have done better

“If we were to run the project again, we would put solar bins in areas with more consistent high foot traffic,” said Hilary.

“If we end up installing more Clean Cubes, there are two things we would add in. First, we would have an official launch to help spread the message in the community. Second, we would physically collect and count all the litter in the vicinity before installation, instead of just doing a visual audit.

“In Victoria Park Lake, it would also be useful to document which bins are prone to overflowing to choose the best sites for installing Clean Caps.”

Next steps

“We will keep monitoring the bins, and if we get good results, we’ll install more throughout Greater Shepparton,” added Hilary. “We will also share our results with waste and resource recovery groups and Sustainability Victoria. That way the whole state can benefit from smart bins to reduce litter now and in the future.”

More information

Contact Hilary Grigg, Waste Education Officer at Greater Shepparton City Council on (03) 5832 5207 or email hilary.grigg@shepparton.vic.gov.au