Applying a gender impact assessment to a kerbside waste and recycling collection service

Name of initiative: Four-bin kerbside waste and recycling collection service
Policy/program/service: Service
New or up for review: Up for review
Sector: Local government

This case study has been drawn from real examples, however the narrative is fictional.


The Victorian Government announced its plan to transition to a four-bin waste and recycling system. Victorian councils must update their kerbside collection services to align with these changes.

Banksia Valley Council is in the outer metropolitan area of Melbourne. The municipality covers both rural and urban areas. The Waste & Recycling team at council will lead the transition to a four-bin kerbside collection service. Budget has been allocated to this service transition. The team, led by Jax (they/them), must determine how to best use these funds.

The team must conduct a gender impact assessment to ensure the service meets the needs of women, men and gender-diver people in the community. The team understands this process will help them design a fairer waste management service.

Step 1: Define the issue and challenge assumptions

For the first step of this process, Jax and their team need to identify the problem that the updated service model is trying to solve.

To complete this step, Jax and their team must ensure that they:

  • apply an intersectional gender lens to planning and implementing the updated service; and
  • consider the gendered impacts of a four-bin kerbside collection service.

What is the issue the program is trying to address?

Council must transition to a four-bin kerbside collection system. This system must comply with the Victorian Government’s recycling reforms and the Gender Equality Act.

Jax and their team want to ensure the updated kerbside collection service will meet the needs of all community members.

Challenging assumptions

Jax and their team initially assume there are no gendered differences in how people use kerbside collection services. The service appears to be universal and delivered consistently across the municipality. Community members interact with the service simply through placing rubbish and recycling in bins.

Jax and their team start to consider how different people might use the service. Applying an intersectional gender lens, they consider:

  • How can gender influence how people access and use the service? Do gendered differences in household roles and caring responsibilities play a role?
  • How can intersecting factors, such as age, disability, ethnicity or sexuality, influence how people use the service?
  • How do the team’s own assumptions, biases or experiences of waste collection services shape their perceptions? How might their perceptions influence their planning or decision-making for the updated service?
  • How do gender or intersectional attributes impact people’s kerbside collection needs? For instance, collection frequency, bin capacity, collection location, or capacity to sort waste.
  • What factors impact people’s compliance with waste and recycling guidelines?

Jax and their team also challenge the assumption that the service reaches the whole municipality. Kerbside collection does not reach some rural areas. Residents in those areas must instead take their waste to a central collection point.

The team have started to consider the gendered and intersectional impacts of a kerbside collection service. They have also considered their own biases which, if unchecked, could influence the service design. This process helps council design a more equitable service model.

Broadening the issues with a gendered lens

The team now recognises that waste and recycling services need to cater to the different needs of community members.

After applying an intersectional gender lens, areas for further investigation include:

  • People of different genders and intersecting attributes produce different forms of waste. For instance, sanitary or incontinence products, nappies and medical waste. How can the updated service account for this?
  • Different households need different bin capacity. For example, a household disposing of nappies might need a larger landfill bin. Do the eligibility criteria for bin sizes meet the needs of people of different genders and intersecting attributes?
  • How can the updated service include best practice principles and meet the needs of all community members? For instance, reducing the collection frequency of landfill bins can discourage use. However, this can negatively impact households disposing of nappies, medical waste or incontinence products.
  • Complicated written information in English is not accessible for everyone. Inaccessible instructions limit people’s ability to sort waste or use their bins in sustainable ways. How can this information be accessible?
  • Household roles are often gendered. Do women, men and gender diverse people perform different roles in household waste management?
  • Jax and their team plan to develop education campaigns to support the community to transition to the four-bin system. How can these campaigns represent the diversity of the community? How can these campaigns meet the needs of people of different genders and intersecting attributes?
  • What is the gender composition of council divisions involved in this service transition? Could this impact decision-making?
  • Council contracts kerbside collection services to an external company. What are the procurement criteria around gender equality or the gender composition of the workforce?

These considerations help the team identify areas for further research. They understand that collecting data in step two will help them further define the issue and challenge assumptions.

Step 2: Collecting evidence – data, research and consultation

Jax and their team understand they need to learn more to design a fair kerbside collection service. They plan to review data from internal sources and desktop research. They also consider what they could learn from consultation and stakeholder engagement.

To guide their investigation, they consider:

  • Who is likely to be affected?
  • What are the lived experiences of these diverse groups?
  • What different impacts may be likely for different people?

By gathering as much information from as many sources as possible, Jax and their team can understand their service context. It will help the team to understand the needs that different community members have of the updated service. This will ensure the updated service is inclusive and effective.

Data and statistics

Jax and their team want to ensure they collect evidence that is relevant to the members of their community. To do this, the team consults their council’s census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (‘ABS'). Some of their key insights from this data are:

  • There are approximately 1000 children aged 0 to 4 (likely to be in nappies)
  • 5.5% of the population requires support with daily activities due to disability
  • The median age of the population is higher than that of Greater Melbourne
  • Over 25% of the population are older couples without children.
  • 21% of households are lone-person households
  • There is a higher Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population than that of Greater Melbourne
  • Mandarin, Italian, Chin Haka, Cantonese and Greek are the most commonly spoken languages, in addition to English.

They also learn that some areas that are ineligible for kerbside collection have a high proportion of seniors and retirees. One of these areas has the highest proportion of older women living alone.

The team refers to the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector’s (the Commission) website for more data sources for conducting a gender impact assessment.

Using internal data

Jax and their team start by accessing information and data that is available to council staff. They look for a variety of data to help their gender impact assessment, including:

  • Previously commissioned research and policy reports
  • Project and program evaluation reports
  • Enquiries and complaints handling data
  • Survey data, census findings
  • Customer and end-user data, including social media data
  • Waste and recycling audits
  • Consultation and policy submissions.

The internal data reveals:

  • The number and location of households with different types and sizes of bins
  • The level of compliance and satisfaction with the current collection policy
  • The outcomes of previous community education initiatives.

The team realises that council’s previous waste and recycling surveys did not collect data about gender. This makes it difficult for the team to analyse the gendered impacts of the service. The team decide to review gendered data from other regions so they can consider the potential impacts in their community.

Desktop research

Jax and their team seek to answer the questions raised earlier through desktop research. They focus on research about the lived experiences of diverse groups in the community. They explore the different impacts kerbside collection services can have on different people.

To find this information, Jax and their team draw on a range of sources, including:

  • verified websites
  • open-source journal articles and research papers
  • academic databases that council has access to.

The team also looks for grey literature from reputable sources. This includes sector or trade publications, government websites and trusted news outlets.

This research helps the team learn how different people experience kerbside collection services.

For more information on desktop research, please see this Victorian Government resource.

Stakeholder engagement

Jax and their team find some excellent information through their research. They also recognise the value in consulting with the community to enhance their research.

The team runs a community waste survey to obtain feedback on the proposed changes to the service. The survey collects gender-disaggregated data from a range of community members. It also asks respondents about their specific kerbside collection needs, e.g., in bin volume or collection frequency.

Jax and their team then hold community engagement sessions to discuss the updated service. To engage a broad range of community members, they extend invitations via specific community groups and services. This includes:

  • Disability services
  • Parents’ groups
  • Older people’s advocacy services
  • Community groups for migrants and refugees or people from non-English speaking backgrounds
  • Local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community groups and services.

Evidence collected by the Waste & Recycling team

Jax and their team gather evidence about how different people use kerbside collection services. They find gendered and intersectional differences in waste and recycling practices. They will use this research to inform the design of the updated service.

Step 3: Options analysis

Jax and their team begin writing their options analysis for the kerbside collection service. They consider the impacts of the service on people of different genders and intersecting attributes. The team compares three options.

Step 4: Finalise recommendations

The team must now use the options analysis to make final recommendations for the updated service. Considering both the gendered benefits and the scope of their budget, Jax and their team recommend that council proceed with Option 2. This includes:

  • Running diverse education campaigns to promote equal household participation in sorting waste and recycling, aimed at men to encourage their active participation.
  • Providing clear guidelines on sorting waste that will be available in plain English and common community languages.
  • Providing options to upgrade to a larger landfill bin for households disposing of nappies, incontinence aids or medical waste.
  • Providing in-home bin collection service for people with mobility issues.
  • Finding ways to recruit more women to council’s Environment & Sustainability Advisory Committee.
  • Updating council’s procurement policy to promote workforce gender equality.

Identifying the gendered benefits, Jax also prepares a separate report outlining Option 3 for Council’s future consideration. Although the initiatives were ideal, this option would have unfortunately involved significant spending which is not possible in this budget cycle.

Preparing for progress reporting to the Commission

Jax and their team have now completed their gender impact assessment. Their next step is to consider how to report their progress to the Commission.

The Organisational Development team at council looks after reports to the Commission. To help this reporting, the Waste & Recycling team needs to record:

  • A description of the service that was subject to a gender impact assessment (can be recorded now); and
  • The actions taken as a result of the gender impact assessment (can be recorded once approved).

The team provides this information and a copy of the gender impact assessment to the Organisational Development team.

Summary of actions taken

Council approves the recommendations of Option 2, as put forward by Jax and their team. Some of these actions will take longer to implement than others. They document the actions that have been approved by Council so that the Organisational Development team can submit these to the Commission for reporting purposes. These actions include:

  • Education and messaging campaigns that emphasise that recycling is everyone’s responsibility. These campaigns promote men’s active participation.
  • Campaigns that represent the diversity of households in the municipality. This includes gender composition and cultural diversity.
  • Clear communications and guidelines for the updated service that are available in plain English and common community languages.
  • Households producing more waste due to nappies, incontinence products or medical waste are eligible for a larger landfill bin.
  • Recruitment of more women to council’s Environment & Sustainability Advisory Committee to improve gender equity in decision-making.
  • Updates to Council’s procurement standards to encourage contractors to progress workforce gender equality.
  • A report for Council that considers how to implement further gender transformative actions once budget allows.