What can we do to reduce waste?
There are challenges ahead of us when it comes to waste management.
Perversely, while the statistics of the tonnages collected for recycling at the kerbside collection throughout the Matamata-Piako District have increased considerably, so have the tonnages going to landfill. We are simply creating more waste. It’s not unique to Matamata. Nobody wants a landfill in their neighbourhood and the consenting process to get a new one is costly.
The cost of taking waste to a licensed landfill includes a waste minimisation levy of $10/tonne. This levy fund is managed by the Ministry for the Environment whereby half goes to councils, to provide environmental and sustainability initiatives such as Enviroschools, and the other half is used as a fund for studies and projects or to set up new waste management solutions. The NZ Rural Waste Minimisation Project that I ampart of has in part been funded through this. There is a desire to increase the levy. Compared to Australia, where the states all apply their own levy, ours is very low.
Recently China stopped receiving plastic for recycling. It was taking 55 per cent of the world’s plastic. We, as a country are fast learning the need to deal with our waste. Agrecovery collects unwanted agricultural and animal health chemicals where the highly hazardous compounds are sent to France for disposal, which is expensive. The lesson here is for farmers and growers to only buy what they need and use it up before it expires. Through my governance roles, I have had the opportunity to gather knowledge on the waste sector.There is no silver bullet and we as the people of this beautiful country have a choice.
This is not demanding what central and local government should do. This is asking what I can do to improve my own waste management habits. No one is perfect and we are all in this together. It takes time, thought and action. Take the plastic bag debate. Some say we should be charged a levy at the point of sale for the bag - a regulatory move.
This however creates a layer of cost through administration. The greatest thing we can do individually is to voluntarily remove our need for that plastic bag when we go shopping. This is occurring throughout the country right now. People are taking their reusable bags with them when they go to the supermarket. Many retailers and suppliers are providing paper bags, a compostable bag or a cardboard box.
Customers are carrying their purchase out of the store loose, in their handbag or in a reusable bag. These are all a conscious change in behaviour which will eventually become an unconscious habit and a normal part of daily life. The common theme is cost, a monetary one and an environmental one. What price am I prepared to pay?
-Adrienne Wilcock, Matamata Ward district councillor.