Inorganic waste collection
“There may not be an answer for every product today, but there are innovative people in this world who think of very creative ways of dealing with stuff.”
Auckland Council’s Parul Sood. Photo: Ted Baghurst
Goodbye kerbside inorganic collection. The annual collection in Auckland, which was loved by some and hated by others, is gone. Instead Auckland Council has placed its bets on a new collection service, which it hopes will take it a step closer to its goal of zero waste by 2040.
Two trucks will pick up inorganic goods from homes. The first will sort the inorganic material for reusable items and the second will be for disposal.
Pickups under the new scheme start today. Instead of leaving inorganic material on the kerbside, Auckland residents will receive a flyer when their area is due for a collection and must book online or call the council to organise their individual pick up on a specific day. There is no direct charge because one pickup per annum is included in the waste charge, a part of residents’ annual rates bill.
Auckland Council’s waste planning manager Parul Sood says residents will be allowed to put out up to one cubic metre of items per house. Individual items must be able to be lifted by two people and not be heavier than 55kg. They must also be kept on the property close to the driveway.
Acceptable inorganic items are listed on makethemostofwaste.co.nz. The council won’t collect some objects, such as: recyclable packaging, tyres, car parts, building and trade waste, fibrolite, floor coverings, and gas cylinders.
The new inorganic methodology outlined in Auckland’s 2012 Waste Management and Minimisation Plan is to create economic, social, and environmental opportunities from resources that were previously classed as waste, says Sood.
In the short term, reusable items will be taken to a warehouse in Penrose from which the Community Recycling Network (CRN), a not-for-profit made up of 60 member organisations from around New Zealand, will distribute materials to approved ‘receivers’. Project manager Sei Brown says his organisation got involved so that it could be influential around the process of building the city’s resource recovery network, which is a long-term project the council is committed to developing.
CRN has approved community groups such as the Salvation Army and local Hospice shops to become ‘receivers’. Small community groups can also apply to become receivers, says Brown.
The receivers will be entitled to regular “shopping sprees” to pick up goods that they can sell in their shops or refurbish in their workshops. He expects the Penrose warehouse to receive up to six truckloads a day when the service starts.
The inorganic truck drivers will be given training in what items can be reused and will, over time, learn to identify more and more items that could find a new home.
The warehouse operation is a stop-gap measure. Over the next 10 years the council hopes that recovered inorganic material will be delivered to 12 community run reuse/recycling centres across Auckland – the first of which are already up and running in Waiuku and Helensville.
Waiuku Zero Waste grew out of a local ‘men’s shed’ and now operates a recycle centre in the local transfer station. Staff members aim to divert 75 per cent of the “rubbish” coming in to the facility, much of it to its shop, the Waiuku
Junktion, and a workshop. “The variety of what comes in just blows you away,” says Sue Wallis, general manager of Waiuku Zero Waste Limited.
One advantage of the new service for local Waiuku residents is that once they’ve been through the recycling centre there is less in their load, reducing their dump fees.
People perceive things that can be recycled or reused in different ways. A classic example of this is the frame of old broken patio umbrellas, which most Kiwis class as waste. But Xtreme Zero Waste Raglan, which has been operating for 15 years and is seen as an example for Auckland sells lots of them to gardeners who use them as bean poles.
Another example from Raglan is old out-of-date briefcases. One enterprising customer buys these, as well as old electronics, and turns them into solar-powered stereos, which he then sells.
At Waiuku, like Raglan, staff members and volunteers fix and repurpose items in the workshop – with everything from bicycles to washing machines.
Waiuku’s staff members even remove nails from wood and re-sell it. If the wood is too rotten to sell it is sent to a company called Kalista, which chips it to be used to fuel kilns.
Auckland Council has also contracted community organisation Helensville Enterprise Trust to run the transfer station there as a community recycling centre. The next service off the blocks is expected to be in Devonport. Other community groups in Mangere, Papakura and elsewhere are champing at the bit to get started.
For the 12 centres to be a success, members of the public will have to change their behaviour in the way they have in Raglan and Waiuku. Brown says once this happens there should be no need for warehouses such as the one in Penrose. His job will be done.
Each of the centres will have its own ideas on how to reuse collected materials. The council already holds networking meetings for these groups to encourage a joint approach. They can share knowledge and materials.
The ultimate aim, says Sood, is for the centres to be financially self-sustaining. “They would be making money out of selling the stuff or other ways of getting money in.”
Other forms of funding, such as government subsidies to train and employ disabled and/or unemployed people, may be applied for, says Sood. Some centres may also make money from providing workshops for the community.
Sood admits that there will be an element of material that the community groups won’t be able to reuse or recycle and this will end up in landfills.
She hopes over time that the community or business will find innovative ways to deal with these products. New social enterprises will emerge over time to take economic advantage of currently unwanted inorganic materials, she says.
“There may not be an answer for every product today, but there are innovative people in this world who think of very creative ways of dealing with stuff,” says Sood. “People are always coming up with new ideas. It is amazing how people think outside the box. We think: ‘I don’t know what I am going to do with it’, and these people say: ‘I am going to think of something’.”
She adds that there also needs to be a big push for manufacturers to make things longer lasting and easier to reuse and recycle.
The ultimate test of the new inorganic system for Auckland will be whether, a year down the track, there has been a reduction of the 25,000 tonnes currently going to landfill.
If not, the council will have more work to do to streamline the new methodology. It can’t go back. With 700,000 more people expected to live in Auckland in 30 years’ time the council is backing – and banking on – both community and business to step up.