WHITSUNDAYS, AUSTRALIA — An Australian company, Wheelie Designs Pty. Ltd., is on a quest to beautify the country's trash and recycling bins.
The high density polyethylene bins are issued to residents and businesses by municipal councils to dispose of garbage, green waste or recyclables and collected regularly from curbsides.
Five years ago, in Airlie Beach, Queensland-based visual artist Ruth Tomas approached graphic designer Jo Sweeney with a plan to start a business painting wheelie bins.
Sweeney told Plastics News the idea intrigued her but she knew it was not cost-effective. Instead, the duo decided to design and sell vinyl stickers to cover the bins' drab green fronts.
They injected $A130,000 (US$120,000) to launch the business.
“We started small. We knew it would practically sell itself in local and regional towns. Plus we are lucky to have an international tourist industry in the Whitsundays,” Sweeney said.
“After receiving positive feedback from the initial prototype, we developed a national public relations strategy and started selling the stickers,” she said.
Wheelie Designs' products are sold in more than 50 retail outlets around Australia, ranging from plant nurseries to hardware stores and gift shops, and sold via Wheelie Designs' website.
Sweeney said the stickers are most popular in their home state of Queensland, but also sell well in the interstate capital cities of Sydney and Perth. She said the company has sold “thousands” of stickers Australia-wide, but she did not know the precise figure.
More than 8 million wheelie bins are in circulation in Australia and more than 1 million more introduced annually, Sweeney says.
“We would be happy to have stickers on just 1 percent of those bins,” she said.
A company Sweeney would not name applied to buy a license to sell the stickers in the United States, but Wheelie Designs' directors turned the company down.
But Sweeney said the duo was open to forming a licensing agreement with another U.S. company to manufacture the product here.
The designs are printed onto German-manufactured self-adhesive vinyl with a UV over-laminate. The stickers are UV-fade resistant and last up to five years. They are waterproof, and easy to apply and remove without damaging bins. The stickers are for 240-liter, 120-liter and mini bins. There is a range of 200 designs.
Sweeney said the company's biggest growth area is in communicating environmental messages and “interpretive information.” Wheelie Designs works with non-profit organizations, including Planet Ark Environmental Foundation, to create education-based environmental messages about recycling.