Robot Rubbish Collections? ロボットでゴミ収集?

2013.11.07 (Thu)

wheelie bin 3

One of the questions I’ve been asked a lot since I came to Japan is “How is garbage managed in Australia?” In Australia, much like Japan, rubbish is separated by category. The details of that are decided by each individual local government, but general it is separated into recyclable, non-recyclable and green waste. Recyclable waste includes glass, cans, steel, plastic and paper and cardboard. Recently there have been more and more local governments collecting organic waste for compost, and in some local government areas, there are programs which then provide that compost to local farmers.

Although the waste categorisation rules look similar, when it comes to the way rubbish is collected, things look pretty different. The first difference is that, unlike Japan, where you take your rubbish to a designated pickup point or rubbish station for collection, in Australia each house has “wheelie bins”. These large plastic bins are usually between 120L and 240L in size, come in different colours for different types of rubbish and are put out on the street on rubbish collection day. Usually there are three types, recyclable, non-recyclable and green waste, and all of the recyclables go into the same bin. Recently, in an effort to increase community recycling awareness, some local governments have provided larger recycling bins and smaller non-recylable bins. The “wheelie” part of “wheelie bin” refers to the two wheels on the bottom back of the bin, which makes the bins easy to put out and bring in.

The other difference is how the rubbish is collected. The contents of each of the bins that are out the front of each house are emptied into a garbage truck, but the thing is that no human hands are involved. The truck stops next to the wheelie bin, and then a robot arm picks up the bin and empties it into the truck. This means that a single garbage truck driver can easily pick up the town’s rubbish.

The third difference is probably a small thing, but it sticks in my mind because I was so surprised by it. In Japan, before you recycle a spray can or gas canister, you use it all up and then punch a hole in it, right? In Australia, this is thought to be dangerous, and so we just put the empty cans or canisters into the recycling as-is. The truth is that I’ve been told ever since I was a little kid to never damage or put holes in spray cans or gas canisters, so even if I want to now, I’m too scared to be able to do it. On that note, in my household we avoid buying spray cans so we don’t have to throw them out!






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