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How the Australian National Maritime Museum reduced waste to landfill by 63%

The Australian National Maritime Museum, based in Darling Harbour, is Australia’s national centre for maritime collections, exhibitions, research and archaeology. They’re the leader in the preservation, promotion and storytelling of Australia’s maritime heritage – they are Australia’s museum of the sea. Welcoming over 850,000 visitors annually they share Australia’s maritime stories with millions of people across Australia and overseas including families, interstate visitors and international tourists.

Their waste was being treated at an Alternate Waste Treatment facility into an organic product that could be applied to land. Until 2018, when the NSW EPA revoked the Resource Recovery Order for Mixed Waste Organic Material (MWOO) resulting in all compactor waste being sent to landfill - only glass was being recycled accounting for 9% of total waste.

They knew that they needed a solution to their waste woes, and started their journey by engaging with APC Waste Consulting to complete a waste audit of their facility. Adrian, Security Manager, at the Museum found that “The time spent by the consultants auditing our waste and advising on an appropriate plan for our waste made our lives easier and ensured that we introduced the streams that were most relevant to our organisation.”

“From there, our waste sustainability strategy was to increase our landfill diversion rate by introducing a number of new waste streams. With only a 10% diversion rate we knew that we could make a big improvement by introducing new streams and when advice was sought from a waste consultant, we decided that we could easily reach an 80% landfill diversion rate.”

They had seen the Method bins at another site and they were drawn to the look of them. After arranging a meeting with Dan, a member of our Aussie team, Adrian saw that Method was passionate about more than just their bins, but waste reduction and being sustainable.

Method went above and beyond what anyone would expect from a company that sells bins and it was this passion that made the decision for the museum. It was clear that there was a strong alignment in values between the two organisations.

Adrian Snelling

The Solution

Being a transient location with the general public visiting, education was incredibly important. So they knew that signage for the back and front of bins would be crucial to help visitors separate their waste accurately to maximise recycling rates and reduce contamination.

BINS 7519

They had one particular initiative that they were embarking on, looking at the streams of waste, it was obvious to them that one of the main streams from the museum itself was the maps and guides that are given to visitors when they arrive.

They organised to have custom, single grey bins located throughout the Museum with custom labels and a front vinyl to collect their brochures for reuse. Or so was the plan until COVID made this untenable, instead they moved to a single-use paper brochure that was COVID safe. They’ve kept the specialty bins out for use, but now all of the contents goes directly to paper recycling.

BINS 7499 reduced size


The Museum had set themselves up for success and have seen the results already. Implementing the new system mid-January below you can see the last full month of the old system, December 2019 and the first full month with the new system February 2019. In February, they were tantalisingly close to their 80% diversion rate, achieving 76.86%.

Sea Museum diversion 01

While COVID has impacted the number of visitors, and therefore waste they’re producing, you can still see a strong trend in diversion rates below, averaging at 63% of waste being diverted from landfill.

Graphs 03

The Museum are committed to the ongoing work that it takes to have a successful system including monitoring, training and adjusting as necessary. So we’re confident that they will reach their 80% goal soon.

Our journey to being a more sustainable museum was all about the future of the world and looking trying to ensure it is around for generations to come, however as we have learned along the way, the benefits of being sustainable have also made a number of savings for the museum, driving us to ensure that every new project has a heavy focus on sustainability.

Adrian Snelling

Not only have they saved recyclables, they’re going to reduce the cost of their waste disposal long term. It’s an investment to get the system implemented, but they project estimated savings of around $22,000 per year. This will only continue to increase in savings as landfill levies and contamination fees continue to rise.

This has been difficult to measure, again, in light of COVID, but the one month their new streams had been introduced and they had normal visitation onsite, they were on track to make the savings projected.


The Museum has embarked on this journey in a really smart way, starting with a clear understanding of their waste, and engaged their team to be a part of the journey. All while allocating time and resources.

Since then, Adrian has received a lot of feedback from staff, volunteers and tenants regarding the look of the bin, and the clear signage to help separate their waste. “Prior to the installation of the bins, our staff were asking on a regular basis when we were going to introduce the waste streams and have been very happy to assist in this journey,” he said.

Better yet, they’ve seen a wider interest in sustainability for the staff involved in the project. “A number of the staff have had very little to do with sustainability initiatives previously and now since being involved have taken a greater interest in sustainability not only in the workplace but also in their own lives.”

Since introducing the bins, they’ve had very little contamination, the only issue has been staff still not 100% sure which bin to use on occasion and end up placing recyclables into landfill. To help with this they’re looking to set up a recycling training session with their staff and volunteers.

Ready to make a change?