Metro trains and Southern Cross Recycling make community clothing recycling easy

Metro Trains and Southern Cross Recycling have formed a partnership allowing the community to conveniently recycle clothing in clothing and household goods recycling bins at Melbourne’s train stations. The partnership demonstrates principles set out in Sustainability Victoria’s Best Practice Guide for Managing Litter and Illegal Dumping at Clothing Bins and is a win for both the community and the environment.

Business Snapshot

Metro Trains Melbourne (Metro Trains) is the city’s metropolitan rail service operating 203 six-carriage trains across 830 kilometres of track and transporting 415,000 customers each day across 15 lines, 218 stations, seven days a week.

Metro Trains is a consortium of rail and construction businesses and is strongly committed to providing the Melbourne community, and its visitors, with a comfortable, safe and reliable train network as part of an interconnected public transport service, striving to rival the world’s best.

Southern Cross Recycling Group Pty Ltd (SCR) is one of Australia’s largest recyclers of clothing and household goods. Since 1999 over 100,000 tonnes of materials have been recovered, sorted and processed for reuse and recycling, saving valuable resources from landfill as well as saving communities hundreds of thousands of dollars in landfill related fees.

In addition to the environmental benefits their collection services provide, SCR are also committed to social sustainability through job creation, and supporting community-based programs by working with Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs). Each year SCR supports about 150 jobs, either directly or indirectly, mostly for people with a disability.

Together, all of their programs contribute to the collection of more than 9,000 tonnes of clothing and other household goods each year.


Clothing bins at Metro Trains’ stations were, for a long time, subject to high levels of litter and illegal dumping, graffiti, overflow of materials, rummaging, theft, and, in some cases, poor management. Research indicated that sites with multiple bins from multiple owners were contributing to these issues. Bin users and operators were unclear who was responsible for which bins, the areas around them, and what to put in them.

Metro Trains recognised that a service level agreement with one operator would address these issues and so partnered with SCR to do just this.


The aim of the partnership between Metro Trains and SCR was threefold; to reduce and manage littering and illegal dumping around the outside of the clothing bins, to increase servicing of the clothing bins and to establish a quality assured Clothing Recycling Bin Management Program.

To achieve these goals a number of actions, outlined below, were undertaken, all of which are in line with the three phases outlined in Sustainability Victoria’s Best Practice Guide for Managing Litter and Illegal Dumping at Clothing Bins:

  1. Design, planning and siting
  2. Operation and day-to-day management
  3. Removal and residual management

To begin with, all problem sites were identified and at these sites clothing bins were moved from the exterior of station carparks and placed in full view of the station, under Metro Trains’ CCTV cameras. This action, combined with good lighting and regular site visits helped to reduce incidents.

Next refurbishment of clothing bins took place, with the new bin design providing a more secure opening to prevent vandals accessing the inside of the bin. The bins were painted bright yellow to reflect the social enterprise approach being undertaken by SCR in partnership with local ADEs who are employed to service the clothing bins.

Clear signage was applied to the clothing bins outlining information on accepted materials, penalties for illegal dumping and information detailing SCR as the owner and operator with their 24-hour hotline to be used to report serious incidents, damage or overflow.

SCR has the overall responsibility for management of the clothing bin infrastructure across Metro Trains’ network. This includes defined clearance and maintenance schedules, additional staff to manage this, use of overflow prevention indicators where possible, maintenance of the 24-hour call centre service, removal and disposal of excess materials, development and establishment of data logging and incident reporting technology to manage the system.


Through the implementation of combined control measures such as bin refurbishment, relocation and increased servicing, incidents of illegal dumping and graffiti were reduced by 70-80%.

The amount of illegally dumped rubbish reduced considerably when the clothing bin management program was implemented. Progressively, as hot spots have been identified, they are monitored and managed and the number of incidents reported has continued to reduce.

SCR provides weekly reports to Metro Trains on the types and numbers of incidents at stations. This data is regularly assessed to identify any trends at particular hotspots and action plans put in place to rectify any issues.

In 2013 a total of 219 bins were in operation at 90 train stations, with 1,200,450 kilograms of clothing and small household goods collected for reuse and recycling.

Approximately 20% of illegal dumping around clothing recycling bins is electrical waste, 60% is mixed plastics, cardboard, metals and mattresses all of which are recycled. The remaining 20% consists of 15% furniture and household goods, which are sold for reuse if in good condition and 5% is waste to landfill.

To accurately provide performance statistics of individual sites, SCR has barcoded and GPS enabled all of the bins on the METRO train network. This provides real time data collection and reporting for bin servicing. Data is collected on the yields and the condition of the bins. Any incident of graffiti, illegal dumping or vandalism is recorded and acted upon. Before and after photos are taken and used for reporting purposes.


Key challenges for the establishment and continuity of this program are:

>       More than one operator with clothing recycling bins at one site

>       Poor quality of clothing deposited in clothing recycling bins

>       Lack of public awareness that leaving items outside a bin is littering / illegal dumping

>       Poor clothing recycling bin placement in isolated locations

>       Lack of local government support for placement of clothing bins in some municipalities

>       Lack of local government support for community education on correct recycling practices for clothing and household goods

>       Vandalism of clothing bins

>       People who deliberately dispose of waste next to clothing bins

>       People who place fragile items outside of clothing bins because they don’t want them damaged by dropping them into the bin.

Next steps

The Clothing Recycling Bin Management Program is part of Metro Trains’ broader sustainability program. The next step is to expand the program, where feasible, across the network.

SCR continues to partner with Australian Disability Enterprises such as HiCity, a not-for-profit employment support organisation for people with a disability, engaged to service and maintain the clothing recycling bins. The program provides steady and consistent work for three full time employees. Further partnerships with Australian Disability Enterprises are being explored to provide the service as it grows.

A new separate program for the collection and sorting of commingled recycling at train stations is also being planned to ensure that 100% of the recyclable materials are recycled.

SCR also has plans to install bin sensors to electronically notify when bins are full and require servicing. Sensors will also be used to identify if materials are left outside of the bins.


Further information

For more information contact: Gayle Seddon on 03 94636411
or visit   

Sustainability Victoria
Level 28, Urban Workshop,
50 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone (03) 8626 8700

Published by Sustainability Victoria. 
Metro Trains and Southern Cross Recycling make community clothing recycling easy

© Sustainability Victoria, April 2015