The first-of-its-kind ‘WasteSorted – Talking My Language’ educational toolkit was crowned Waste Initiative of the Year at the 2022 WasteSorted Western Australia Awards.
Developed by the City of Wanneroo in partnership with the Waste Authority WA, the toolkit aims to help overcome language and literacy barriers to communicate the importance of responsible waste disposal to the City of Wanneroo’s culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) community.
Brett Treby, Deputy Mayor, says that since the introduction of the toolkit, the contamination level of the city’s recycling has been reduced. And there’s been an unexpected advantage – an improved understanding of English is being reflected in the community’s purchasing strategies.
“One of the great benefits has been an improvement in how things translate into English,” Brett says. “That then goes back to influencing their purchasing. When people are shopping, they can better understand a product’s level of recyclability.”
Brett says that more than 40 per cent of City of Wanneroo residents were born overseas – a higher percentage than the whole of Greater Perth – and about 20 per cent of the city’s residents speak a language other than English at home.
The toolkit uses colourful flashcards, iconography and annotations to teach residents about the importance of recycling and correctly sorting household waste, and helps people learn common English words and phrases.
Suitable for both adults and children, the toolkit is designed for use with small groups. It was originally launched during the rollout of the City’s Three Bin System, when more than 60,000 households received an additional kerbside bin for garden organics waste. Through a series of games, puzzles and quizzes, participants are challenged to correctly identify household items and their English translation, before sorting them into one of three mini waste, recycling and garden organics bins that mirror their bins at home.
Brett says that during the rollout of the toolkit, the City’s Waste Education team worked closely with CaLD community leaders, empowering them to share recycling advice with their community.
The City also made the Talking My Language toolkit available to local schools to help develop students’ understanding of sustainability and recycling and learn a foreign language at the same time.
Kingsway Christian College in Madeley was one of the first schools to trial the toolkit. Participating students said pairing items with their corresponding colour was good for recall and made it easy to remember how to sort waste correctly. They also said the cards had helped correct misconceptions about how to dispose of items such as aerosol cans and disposable coffee cups, and that the interactive cards made classes more visually engaging and fun.
It’s the consistency of messaging across the community that has made the project so successful, says Brett.
“The process is not only educating adults but educating children so they can go home and practice what they’ve learned,” he says. “It’s delivering the same message to everyone in the community and providing clarity on some common misconceptions.”
Toolkits are available in Arabic, Amharic, Burmese, Simplified Chinese, French, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Macedonian, Tagalog and Vietnamese. Translated documents can be downloaded from the City’s website and a non-translated version is available for verbal translation into other languages.
“We’re embedding really good resources to assist our community in understanding how they can be engaged and improve their recycling outcomes,” Brett says.
The award win has raised the profile of the project and there has been increased interest from other cities considering similar programs.
Brett says he’s proud of Wanneroo’s waste award success and hopes others can follow their lead.
For the City of Wanneroo, the toolkit is just one aspect of its strategy to reduce and minimise the amount of waste going to landfill.
“The cost of landfill is expensive,” Brett says. “Everything we can do to divert waste from landfill and recycle it reduces the cost of waste management to the city, and ultimately those savings are passed on to the ratepayers.
“We’re looking at waste management in an environmental and financially sustainable way. It’s a socially responsible approach that the community is starting to see and appreciate.”
The City of Wanneroo was a finalist in both the Waste Team and the Waste Innovation Award categories at the 2022 WasteSorted WA awards. It was also a finalist in the community engagement success of the year category in the 2021 Waste Innovation and Recycling Awards announced in March 2022.