One Bin Methods

The ‘One Bin to Rule Them All’ project has involved three interrelated work packages to explore the material, economic and social realities of household plastic recycling.

Social science work package

The social science work package has involved testing and exploring the micro, meso and macro implications of asking householders to put anything they identify as plastic into one bin.

The sample

Our sample consisted of 30 households from a borough of Greater Manchester.  This borough was chosen because of its socio-economic diversity.  It incorporates some of most deprived and least deprived areas of the country (Indices of Deprivation, 2019).

Out of our 30 households:

  • 10 were located in an area within the 10% most deprived in country,
  • 10 were located in an area amongst the 40% least deprived,
  • 10 were located in an area within the 10% least deprived.

The households also differed in terms of housing tenure, type and occupancy (e.g. families, couples, sole occupants).

Disrupting waste practices

As part of testing the One Bin system, we conducted a ‘disruptive’ trial.   This involved giving the households an additional 240 litre bin to put anything they identified as plastic in.

Prior to this we interviewed each household asking details about:

  • Who lived there - occupants, ownership of pets, housing tenure
  • Recycling practices  - what people put in each bin and how they prepared refuge
  • Consumption practices - where householders shopped, links between shopping and packaging
  • Opinions on plastics and experiences of the current recycling system

After the trial we followed this up with another in depth interview.  This covered:

  • Thoughts having completed the trial
  • Discussion of findings based on our analysis of the contents of bins
  • Possible benefits and pitfalls of giving every household one bin for all plastics
  • Other thoughts and experience

The data

This in depth approach resulted in:

  • 60 interviews (approximately 3,600 minutes) which were thematically analysed
  • Over 5,000 items of plastic waste, which was collected, sorted, and analysed by the team (approx. 200 items per household)

Materials work package 

This work package explores the potential decisions that could be made in Material Recycling Facilities (MRF) and Plastic Recycling Facilities (PRF), identifying pathways that promise to maximise the value and sustainability of materials. As part of doing so, lab-based work is undertaken to evaluate the recyclability of different types of packaging and related rates degradation.

The materials hierarchy

Interdisciplinarity is at the core of the ‘One Bin’ project. Together, the findings from the work packages have fed the development of a materials hierarchy. This aims at shaping key decisions that enable a circular economy. Here is an open-source link to the hierarchy.