Cutting back waste with the Bin Trim program
The Bin Trim program is delivering a new waste management culture for small and medium businesses in New South Wales.
The commercial and industrial sector of NSW currently sends 1.8 million tonnes of waste to landfill each year, with approximately 45 percent of this material coming from small to medium businesses, according to the NSW Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
It is estimated up to 70 percent of the waste produced by these businesses can be reused or recycled, including packing wrap, cardboard boxes, metals, timber and food.
Launched by the NSW EPA in 2014, the Bin Trim program set out to improve this situation by helping small- and medium-sized businesses quickly identify simple actions they could take to start cutting waste and boost profits.
Bin Trim’s momentum continues to build, with more than 8000 businesses becoming involved and realising significant savings during the first of the program’s two rounds.
On average manufacturers saved $6000 each in round one of the program, while the average savings for food service providers and retailers were more than $1000 each.
With round two commencing in mid-2015 the program aims to engage with more than 20,000 businesses over the life of the initiative, and is on track to provide a further 12,000 businesses with free waste assessments by June 2017.
New waste habits
Through the Bin Trim grants program – one part of the overall initiative – the NSW EPA funds free waste assessments for businesses with less than 200 employees to help them reduce waste and increase recycling.
For artist paint manufacturer, Derivan, the Bin Trim program has changed waste management habits that have existed at the business since it was founded 50 years ago.
As Derivan chief executive officer, Steve Patterson, explains, waste at the business has previously been washed into the sewer or simply put in the bin.
“During the Bin Trim program, we identified a piece of packaging that was used – by changing it around and using a different material we ended up over the year finding we should save about 3.5 tonnes of plastic, and also about $50,000,” Patterson recalls.
“I think it is very important that [for] all business – at home, work, everywhere – we’ve got to get into recycling… reducing and reusing, recycling all the way through.”
Derivan now has cardboard collected for recycling more frequently and boxes collected by a box company for reuse. It has also redesigned its paint tube packaging and then retrieves its packaging material back from retailers.
The free waste assessments, which take from 15 minutes to one hour for small businesses and between one and two hours for medium-sized businesses, quantify the amount and type of materials in each business’ general waste bins, as well as any recycling systems they are operating.
Once the assessment is complete, the Bin Trim assessors produce a tailored action plan to improve the business’ management of waste, before providing them with ongoing support to help reduce waste and increase recycling.
“During the Bin Trim program, we identified a piece of packaging that was used – by changing it around and using a different material we ended up over the year finding we should save about 3.5 tonnes of plastic, and also about $50,000
Data collected about each business is entered into an online Bin Trim tool, which provides businesses with: a profile of their current waste and recycling, a tailored plan to reduce, reuse and recycle materials, and practical information to help businesses waste less and save more.
The customised waste reduction action plan developed for the businesses outlines ways to divert waste from landfill and increase recycling.
Under the second part of the program, businesses assessed may be eligible for a rebate to assist with the cost of recycling equipment.
The Bin Trim rebates program, a $9.4 million initiative supported by the NSW Environmental Trust, also targets small- to medium-sized businesses with fewer than 200 employees, or those managing small- to medium-sized business waste, such as facility managers and recyclers. These businesses can apply for a rebate of up to 50 percent of the cost of the reuse or recycling equipment.
Applicants are eligible for one rebate per site of between $1000 and $50,000 for up to five sites. A maximum of $50,000 is available for any one site per financial year, with a maximum of $250,000 on offer to any one applicant over the life of the program.
By June 2017, the Bin Trim rebate program is aiming to help up to 750 businesses improve their recycling through the provision of equipment, which the EPA believes has the potential to divert up to 15,000 tonnes of material from landfill.
The Bin Trim rebates program is designed to accommodate a range of different equipment options. Rebate applications must, however: divert additional new tonnes from landfill, be cost-effective to fund equipment that will help improve or increase recycling, divert priority materials and lead to improved recycling for source separation of waste.
Waste assessments pre and post equipment installation are required under the rebates program.
Business rebate benefits
One business that has taken advantage of the rebates program is Modern Tiles, which is based at Erina on NSW’s Central Coast. According to Modern Tiles employee Ricky Thomas, the business generally accumulates about 150 kilograms of both cardboard and plastic every week.
“There was always a big build-up of material, we would have a palette load just of cardboard,” Thomas says. “An assessor from Bin Trim came in – they had been knocking on our door for a while – we thought we would give it a go and since we have it has been perfect.”
With assistance from the Bin Trim rebate program, Modern Tiles has purchased a new compactor, which is helping to reduce waste and deliver savings for the business.
“Why we got the machine was to help us with the cardboard situation – it’s what we’ve been looking for. It helps with the plastic as well,” says Thomas.
“The EPA has helped us by giving us a 50 percent rebate – they helped us buy the compactor. And after the 18 months it has paid for itself; after that it is just profit [for the business].”
Equipment eligible for a rebate includes material processing infrastructure that diverts waste from landfill, as well as recycling infrastructure. This includes balers, compactors, glass crushing machines, commercial work farms, composters, shredders, EPS compaction equipment, and recycling bins/bin equipment.
As more businesses have become involved with the Bin Trim program, the NSW EPA has continued to develop the initiative to better accommodate the needs of the small and medium businesses it targets.
Pauline Coppin, senior project officer, business recycling unit at NSW EPA, says between rounds one and two some aspects of the program were redesigned to remove certain barriers for businesses and make it easier for them to receive a free assessment.
“With round two we have intrinsically linked the Bin Trim grants program with the rebates program, which has simplified the process for the businesses which are involved,” explains Coppin.
“Prior to launching round two we also had the opportunity to review the first stage of the program to identify the needs of businesses in NSW and establish what should be included in the assessments. The fact that we are on track to reach our target of more than 20,000 businesses in NSW having free assessments is a major success for the program.”
The Bin Trim program has also been successful in building stronger awareness of the recycling opportunities now available to small and medium businesses in NSW, according to Heidi Robertson, project officer, business recycling unit at NSW EPA.
“Bin Trim is helping businesses become more aware of what’s in their bin. When businesses are assessed they are often surprised that there is a large amount of one type of material in their bins – if they get a recycling service for this material then they could save money and cut back on waste,” says Robertson.
“There is also increased awareness of simple things, like talking to waste service providers, or knowing that if their bin is only half full every week that they could be paying less if they had a smaller bin.”
Round two of the program is currently underway and will continue until June 2017. For more information, visit: www.epa.nsw.gov.au/managewaste/bin-trim.htm