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March 2015

A Long and Dirty Saga

The Introduction of Wheelie Bins to Canberra

The minutiae of rubbish collection

Of course, like any government decision, even the introduction of big bins would create a series of unintended consequences to be addressed.

Firstly, the ACT's existing Garbage Regulations stood in the way. The Garbage Regulations at the time were quite specific as to the capacity of residential bins. Even the smaller 140L bins fell outside the maximum permissible capacity of 0.085 cubic metres. As one Government Legal Advisor put it, "The legislation regulates the minutiae of rubbish collection to the point of absurdity." He went on to suggest, "the Garbage Regulations be reviewed with the aim of eliminating at least the unnecessary and the pettifogging, if not the lot."

Also, a new facility to process the increased amount of recyclables was required. Browning Ferris Industries (BFI) constructed a new Materials Recovery Facility at Hume not far from the Mugga Lane Tip. The facility would receive collected material where it was sorted into types, bundled, then sent on to recycling plants to be turned into new products. When the Minister for Urban Services, David Lamont, opened the facility on the 1st December 1994, it was the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Finally, the community would need guidance to use the new system. The Department of Urban Services set about producing an information pack with instructions to households on the correct use of their new big bins. The pack included a collection calendar and the booklet, 'Your Guide to the New Recycling & Garbage Service'. You can download a PDF copy of the guide here: (PDF IconPDF 3.57Mb)

Big bin being emptied

A Thiess Environmental Services truck at the 30th November 1994 launch (Photographer: Unknown)

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No more 5 am garbo!

David Lamont launched the distribution of the big bins on the 1st September 1994. He stated, "The new garbage service will be a significant improvement on the old one. Problems with dogs knocking bins over will be a thing of the past and the collection starting time will be 7am, eliminating the early morning disturbances." He continued, "At the same time, the garbage workers will be provided with a safe work environment and the amount of waste going to landfill will be reduced significantly."

During September and October 1994, DUS delivered over 190,000 bins manufactured by Otto and Sulo to Canberra households. Recycling services began on the 1st November 1994 to a selected group of Canberra suburbs as a way "to ensure that we are supplying a service that meets both your needs and ultimately the needs of Canberra when the full system starts." The remaining suburbs commenced their recycling service on the 1st December, along with the new garbage service to all of Canberra.

1994 flyer - Your New Recycling Service is Here!

Your New Recycling Service is Here! flyer sent to Canberra households in 1994. Click here to go to a transcript of this flyer.

On the 30th November, Thiess Environmental Services unveiled their new garbage trucks outside the ACT Legislative Assembly. ArchivesACT has a set of photos from this launch, a number of which we have reproduced throughout this article.

Minister for Urban Services, David Lamont at the Thiess Environmental Services truck launch

Minister for Urban Services, David Lamont at the Thiess Environmental Services truck launch (Photographer: Unknown)

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Files Used

  • 88/10707 - Legal Services Branch, Waste, Introduction of Big Bins in ACT, Domestic Garbage Collection
  • 88/3435 - Legislation & Legal Policy Branch, Garbage Regulations, Introduction of Big Bins
  • 88/7315 - Technical Services Branch, City Engineering Section, Strategy for Introducing Big Bins
  • 90/11659 - Engineering & Building Services City Engineering, Strategy for Introducing Big Bins
  • 92/14998 - Business Branch Contracts Section Trial Garbage Service Utilising Wheeled Bins in Kaleen C92375
  • 91/9256 - City Operations Branch, Waste Management Section - Wheelie Bins
  • 92/15068 - Business Branch Contracts Section Trial of Wheeled Bins in The ACT T92344
  • 94/10410 - Corporate Services Bureau, Industrial Relations & Rehabilitation, Waste Management - Big Bins
  • 94/13075 - Economics Branch, Mobile Garbage Bin Proposals
  • 94/17754 - City Operations Branch, Waste Management Section, Garbage & Recycling Wheeled Bins Policy
  • 94/19214 - Parliamentary Counsels Office, Garbage Regulations (Regs) (Amdt), Wheeled Bins

Links to External Websites

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