Thinking outside the bin to create household recycle bins

13 September 2018

Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI) is committed to reducing waste to landfill and are always trying to assist households to manage their waste better.  

Our recycling rates is an area which still needs improving.  Recent audits have found that over half of households were not sorting their waste correctly and over 65% of waste to landfill could have been diverted to recycling and composting. 

“Our way towards progressing waste management is guided by the 4R philosophy of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Providing household recycle bins is a method used around the world to improve recycling rates, but taking on board the 4R philosophy we decided that bringing another 12,000 containers to provide to households is unappealing as well as very costly. Even if they are here to help with our waste management – they will eventually need to be disposed of.” says Jaime Short of ICI.

“Rarotonga is such a beautiful island and it’s no secret that our landfill is nearing capacity, we wanted to come up with a unique Cook Islands answer” says Hilary Boyes who is a Volunteer Services Abroad stationed with ICI waste management.  “And at the same time there are all these other containers already on island like empty paint cans, seed drums, bottle crates, empty 20L water and oil containers, old chilly bins, excess wood from building projects, etc which are mostly are destined for the landfill.  We know some households are already using them for their recyclable materials so we thought - can we expand on that and make a way for all households to turn the containers they have sitting around into their own dedicated recycle bins?”

The team therefore approached the Tindall Foundation in New Zealand who very kindly funded the design and print of 4,000 waterproof UV resistant stickers of each of our three recycle streams (Glass, Can/Aluminium, and Plastics) (12,000 stickers in total).  Hori Signs, a local company, printed the stickers.

Households are now asked to create their own dedicated recycle bins using their existing containers (or being creative and making or even weaving a new container), and attaching the new stickers which will be distributed soon by Te Aponga Uira.  “We want to remind people though, to think about the size of bin they purchase or create.  A wheelie bin is not suitable because it is made for machines to pick up.  Our roadside collector has staff picking up these bins so it’s best for all bins to be people friendly” adds Short.

To create an extra incentive, Tindall and Air Rarotonga have provided four prizes – 1 x flights for four to Aitutaki, and 3 x $500 travel vouchers for households who get creative and send a picture of their new bins in use. Details on how to win the prize and other information on the initiative is provided in the advert below.

“This initiative has so many benefits” says Ngametua Pokino, Secretary of ICI, “dedicated recycle bins is a proven way to improve recycling and therefore divert materials from the landfill, and the purpose of this scheme is to repurpose containers already on island and divert them from the landfill too!  It also lets households choose the size and material of the bins that will work best for their household.  And the Air Raro travel vouchers are a great prize for our community too.  We hope all households will get on board and show their dedication to improved and responsible waste management”.

The Cook Islands Tourism Corporation is also behind with this initiative and developed a fridge magnet which will be given out with the stickers to provide further information on how to manage your waste.  Te Aponga Uira are kindly distributing the stickers and magnets on their meter reading routes. 

These partnerships bring a really great feeling around things that need to be done in the waste space.

“Please do your part and also help your neighbours and family” Short adds, “This is just one of our initiatives on our journey to Zero Waste.  We all have to work together and really start thinking about what we can keep out of the landfill and our burn piles”. 

If you have missed out or need additional stickers/magnets or have any questions/comments contact ICI, WATSAN Division at 20321 or


The Tindall Foundation is proud to support this initiative. “We love the fact that this is a creative solution to encourage recycling and reduce waste to landfill. It is so simple and can be adapted to suit every household. We encourage everyone in Rarotonga to get involved,” said John McCarthy, Manager of The Tindall Foundation.