Aussie councils' strict rubbish warnings make bin night stressful - but are they going too far?

What's next? asks Adam Lucius. A panel of judges to determine whether you've missed an edge with your whipper snipper?

Two wheelie bins sit on a street with a garbage truck picking up bins visible in the background.
Bin night has become a source of stress for many Australians. Source: Getty

Every Tuesday evening around the same time, I feel my palms begin to sweat and my blood pressure mount. It's bin night in our street and the questions start to pile up in my tiny brain.

Does the empty milk carton go in the yellow bin or the blue one? Or does it belong in the "I don’t have a clue so it goes in the red bin" category?

Then there's those plastic containers strawberries come in. Who the hell truly knows what to do with them? And don’t start me on empty chip packets.

It’s a veritable bin lottery. Pick a receptacle and hope for the best. But near enough is no longer good enough for us doyens of debris.

Now some local councils are critiquing our dirty work, adding to stress levels across towns and suburbs throughout the country.

Yarra Ranges Council in Victoria is placing stickers on bins, giving residents a thumbs up or down for their recycling efforts. Do the right thing and you get a smiley face sticker with the words "well done".

But accidentally put your potato peelings in with the empty bottle of chardonnay and you'll get a red tag featuring a sad face and "please recycle correctly" warning.

Tags on bin give residents feedback, one saying 'well done' (left) and one saying 'please recycle correctly' (right).
Aussie councils have started to seriously crack down on bin errors. Source: Facebook

You can literally be called out for being rubbish.

City of Parramatta Council in western Sydney takes it a step further, warning recalcitrant recyclers who "repeatedly contaminated their bin" could be struck off the service.

Of course the motivation for these tags is completely admirable. The goal is to avoid bins being contaminated with inappropriate material which can be detrimental to the entire load collected that week.

As the Parramatta Council website says: "plastic bags, cling wraps and any soft plastics packaging are not accepted in the yellow-lidded recycling bin as they jam up the machines in the recycling facility".

Parramatta Council bin warnings.
Parramatta Council has gone a step further and threatened to refuse service to those that don't recycle properly. Source: Parramatta Council

"They should be placed in your red-lidded waste bin," it says.

"It is important to recycle right. Incorrect items put in the recycling bin could ruin the whole truck load of recyclables or break the sorting machinery at the recycling plant."

We should all understand that recycling is important by now. But where is the personal responsibility here? Can householders not be treated like adults?

What's next in this constant quest for further council control? A panel of judges to determine whether you've missed an edge with your whipper snipper?

Adjudicators armed with clipboard and spirit levels to rule on whether the clothesline load is symmetrically sound? A bunch of bureaucrats to assess if the garden hose has been appropriately wound up?

Local councils already infiltrate our lives in so many ways, reinforcing the view Australia is becoming more of a nanny state by the day. They tell us where we can park on our own property, map out no go zones for the family dog and kick kids off sporting fields the moment rain is within a hundred kilometres.

Step out of line and the punishment can be both swift and costly.

Now, they wish to dish the dirt on our grime. Do we really need to be publicly shamed for not knowing our soft plastics from our hard?

Wheelie bins on the side of the road.
Throwing out waste never used to be such a stressful experience. Source: Getty

Back when I was a kid, putting your rubbish out was a straightforward process.

The bottles, cartons, food scraps, newspapers, nappies and packaging was all thrown in together in a plastic bin literally bursting at the seams. Your well-to-do neighbours may have upgraded to a steel bin, but the contents were the same.

We now live in more enlightened times and most people are happy to do their little bit for the environment on collection night. Bottles go in one bin, paper in another and the rest is thrown in a red bin the size of a thimble.

If an error is made, it's usually down to an honest mistake. We don’t need to wake up the next morning to find Big Brother telling us we’ve been a naughty boy or girl.

There's enough neighbour judgement as there is without being told we suck at muck.

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