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RecycleSmart crunches the recycling numbers


Live data from on-demand recycling service RecycleSmart is giving councils an insight into residents’ behaviour.

Packaging and local councils are the two most common sources of recycling information that consumers turn to, according to a report by Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation and Planet Ark.

The 2021 report also found that Australians care about recycling, but many are still confused about what they can and can’t recycle at home. Penrith City Council in New South Wales has found a way to help them.

Awareness and conversation around recycling has had a notable shift in tone since the council partnered with RecycleSmart, says Elyse Marcolin, Resource Recovery Education Officer with the council.

“Particularly with understanding and concern for soft plastics being kept out of landfill and recycled separately,” Elyse says.

“There is also better understanding that not all recyclable items can be disposed of in the kerbside recycling bin, particularly items that are considered contaminants and can be hazardous such as batteries and e-waste.”

RecycleSmart is designed to make recycling easier. It’s a door-to-door service for tricky to recycle items including textile,e-waste and other problematic resources such as aluminium coffee capsules, polystyrene, batteries, light bulbs, soft plastics and more.

Elyse says Penrith City Council began partnering with RecycleSmart on a trial basis in September 2021 and transitioned to full membership in February 2022. There are more than 300 subscription-based users in the council area who receive regular, monthly collections and more than 50 ad hoc single pick-ups booked each month. Elyse says both subscription and single pick-up bookings continue to increase monthly. 

“Council continually strives to be a leader in waste and recycling innovation, including household problem waste management. From-your-door collections that RecycleSmart provides are an additional way for households to further divert problem waste such as soft plastics and textiles from landfill by keeping them separate to be sent to appropriate recycling facilities,” she says. “Residents have reacted positively to the service since its introduction. Most notably, the convenience of Power Pickups has been very well received. 

“Some fantastic feedback has extended to a reduction in bin size for properties due to the amount of space being saved in the residual bin from items now being collected in Power Pickups.”

Elyse says easily accessible data and a reporting dashboard gives council access to statistics at any time about what is being recycled and how much. 

Every time a RecycleSmart driver collects bags of recyclables the bags are sorted and weighed. The volume of plastics, e-waste, clothing and problem waste is logged, as is the number of bags collected and pick-ups.

Eugenie Alonzo, RecycleSmart Chief Marketing Officer, says every council has 24-hour access to a live report.

“They can check at any time how we’re performing in the area and they have an understanding of why people are using our service. 

“For every single pick-up we know what has been collected within those four categories of waste and how much in kilograms. Together with the council, we can then focus on that from an education perspective. It gives us all engagement with the communities.”

The data also provides an insight into what other streams of recycling could be introduced. Eugenie cites one participating council that had no solution for polystyrene. 

“We knew, because of the data from other councils, that polystyrene was an issue. Now, after working with the council, it is possible to get polystyrene recycled in the area. 

“The main take away of waste we collect are soft plastics and clothes. These are the waste streams that are really building quickly for councils. Previously a lot of people were putting those in the recycling bin which contaminates it.”

But Eugenie says the data is not just helpful for councils, individual users can track their own recycling journey. 

“When a user logs into their account they can see how much waste they have diverted from landfill in terms of kilograms and what type of waste,” she says. “It gives an indication of what habits they can change at home to try and reduce their waste. 

“That’s the end goal – developing good habits.”  

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