Cape Town is recycling its old wheeled garbage collection bins, or “wheelie bins,” into new ones, diverting waste from landfill and adopting the concept of a circular economy.

Cape Town is giving new life to old, worn out, or damaged garbage collection wheelie bins by recycling them into new 240-L wheelie bins in an effort to circularize municipal waste management. With the project, the city’s Solid Waste Management Department embarked on its first closed-loop procurement scheme between a public authority and a private manufacturer. Launched in 2014, the Fifty/50 Wheelie Bin program utilizes 50% virgin material and 50% old bins that have been recycled, rather than using solely 100% virgin high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This has been identified as a safe ratio of virgin and recycled plastics based on months of research and development.

Under this program, Cape Town is taking a targeted and progressive step towards implementing a new approach in recycling in local government. With the Fifty/50 Wheelie Bins estimated to have up to a 25% smaller environmental impact than manufacturing new bins, the project earned the city the South African Plastics Recycling Organization Trophy for the Recycled Product of the Year in 2015.

400 tons of wheelie bins have been diverted from landfill by being recycled into Fifty/50 Wheelie Bins

The challenge

With increased urbanization and population growth in Cape Town, waste sent to landfill is growing, as is demand for city services. Diverting as much waste from landfill as possible, using recycling and drop-off facilities, is a city priority. The Fifty/50 Wheelie Bin program is a smart and targeted effort to achieve these goals, as recycling old wheelie bins into new wheelie bins not only diverts waste from landfill but lowers costs and reduces lifecycle CO2 emissions.


Economic The city has saved nearly $160,000 under the program, as each Fifty/50 bin costs approximately $26.85 as opposed to $28.70 for each 100% virgin HDPE bin.

Environmental A 63% reduction in global warming potential, which is the heat trapped in the atmosphere by a given greenhouse gas, has been predicted using the program’s recycled bins versus virgin HDPE.

Social Twenty-two new jobs have been created in the manufacturing of Fifty/50 Bins.

About Cape Town

Cape Town is a coastal city in South Africa. It is the second-most populous urban area in South Africa after Johannesburg. It is also the capital and primate city of the Western Cape province. The city is famous for its harbour, for its natural setting in the Cape Floristic Region, and for such well-known landmarks as Table Mountain and Cape Point. It is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, reflecting its role as a major destination for immigrants and expatriates to South Africa.

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