A solution for managing public litter bins has landed the City of Kingston the top gong for Customer Experience at the Municipal Association of Victoria Technology Awards.
The Bin Evolution project involved the development and roll out of a new labelling system for more than 1000 public bins within the City of Kingston.
The bins were fitted with unique QR codes that can be scanned by residents and visitors to let the council know if one needs emptying or fixing. The notification goes to the city’s waste contractors for action.
Samantha Krull, City of Kingston General Manager of Infrastructure and Open Space, says the need for the Bin Evolution came on the back of the extended COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 and council’s desire to keep open spaces tidy and the community informed, safe, and active.
“During COVID lockdowns we saw an unprecedented use of open spaces, particularly the foreshore, when residents could only move within their five-kilometre radius,” Samantha says.
“With well over 1000 bins across our foreshore, reserves and shopping villages, our bins were overflowing, and our collection program wasn’t keeping up with the heightened demand.”
Tim Scott, Team Leader, Maintenance Contracts and Waste at the City of Kingston, says additional bins were installed and waste runs were increased during the summer period, but the measures still failed to keep up with the amount of waste generated.
He says the challenge was heightened because most of the waste was generated at weekends when the city was unable to respond.
Samantha says a cross-organisation team took a deep dive into the issue, with the humble QR code identified as a key part of the answer.
A unique QR code was generated for every individual bin and printed onto stickers with a message encouraging the public to report issues.
With no more than a smartphone and a passion for keeping Kingston beautiful, customers can scan the QR code and submit the form, the waste contractor is notified directly, and the bin is emptied, with council notified once the task has been completed.
“QR codes were everywhere during Covid,” Samantha says. “Everyone’s phone could use them, and everyone was comfortable with them.
“These QR codes, coupled with a full automation of the reporting process, has produced fantastic results. Because the contractor is alerted straight away, they can immediately get to the hot spots.”
Tim says regular reports show that more than 95 per cent of people reporting an issue with a bin have used the QR code rather than traditional methods since the project was started.
It’s not just the community that has embraced the evolution. Samantha says councillors felt empowered by the project, too.
“They felt there was going to be a resolution,” she says. “They felt that they could do something about a problem.”
The Kingston City Council redeployed staff whose roles were impacted by Covid to gather information for the database to be used for the bin project.
Tim says the council is now looking at ways to introduce a similar QR code project for other assets it manages such as public showers and taps.
“We always want to have a good standard of amenity in public spaces for people to recreate and enjoy their weekend,” he says. “We’re looking at how we can use the Bin Evolution as a prototype for other things. It changes our relationship with the customer and the community.”
Samantha is proud of the council team for taking a small idea for a problem and turning it into something that has had a huge impact.
Kingston City Council won the customer experience award at the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) Technology’s Awards in August. MAV President Cr David Clark says it’s important to shine a spotlight on the councils leading the way in the use of technology.
“Technology moves forward so quickly, so it’s important to stop and celebrate those leaps forward at a local government level. Our technology people often work behind the scenes, however the work they deliver is at the forefront of our positive interactions with our communities.”
Kingston City Council and Bin Evolution have also been nominated for the Linked Organisations of Local Authority Achievement of the Year award, which includes organisations from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, USA, UK and Sweden. The 2022 LOLA conference is being held in New Zealand in November.