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3,200kg Waste For Every Man, Woman & Child

Roderick Boys, Resource Recovery Manager at Wellington City Council, gives us the low down on waste in Wellington. 

· Wellington Climathon

Waste is ubiquitous. In NZ we throw away 15.5 Million tonnes of waste every year. That’s 3,200kg for every man, woman and child. Harmful wastes are the direct result of a linear economy that utilises valuable resources only once (most often) before being discarded. Having committed to the polluting and carbon impact of resource extraction, harvesting and manufacturing; to utilise an item only once is truly a thoughtless act. Transitioning to a circular economy where all resources go round and round through reuse, repurposing and recycling is a no-brainer, and the best part is we can transition to it with very little cost and huge benefits will follow.

We just need the social and political will to do it.

A recent study showed that if NZ landfill charges increased in line with international best practice, by 2025, it would create up to 9000 jobs, deliver $500 Million per year in net benefit to the economy, and divert 3 Million tonnes from landfill and increase recycling rates to 60% (i.e. world leading).

Levy Rates for Active Waste in Different Countries, NZ $ (Source: A Wasted Opportunity, 2017)

Levy Rates for Active Waste in Different Countries, NZ $ (Source: A Wasted Opportunity, 2017)

For Wellington City Council, organic wastes at the Southern Landfill make up 85% of its corporate emissions and we are not even great at the basics, such as kerbside recycling. The 2016 Waste Assessment showed that per capita, Wellington region households throw out nearly twice as much waste as Christchurch, and we recycle less than half as much. And that doesn’t even include the most potent greenhouse gas causing fractions of green waste and food waste, which Christchurch (and soon in Auckland) divert to make compost. So, what can Wellington do?

Lots actually, and we are, our 2017 waste plan has a target to reduce waste by one third in just ten years. We already compost our green waste and we are also looking at kerbside organic collections and options for taking Waste Water Treatment Plant sludge out of the landfill (the two biggest sources of landfill gas). But these aren’t cheap options (that’s code for “it might not happen”) and irrespective of the flashy solutions, we also need a mutli-pronged industry/community led approach to reduce waste if we are to really step-up on this issue.

Specifically, we need ideas turned to realities that enable more people to:

  • understand the problem and why it’s important;

  • be heard on waste issues they are passionate about (coffee cups, straws, polystyrene, cheap electronics, used tyres, single use plastic bags, etc.);

  • take action at home, at work or in the community (it’s easy once you know how!);

  • reduce our overall and individual consumption (this will save you money too!);

  • increase recycling rates, and;

  • reduce their waste.

Wellington City Council has waste minimisation grants able to support organisations and initiatives that reduce waste. Some past grant recipients here.

Related Links:

  • Dig into the data at Waste Free, Together --> https://www.wgtnregionwasteplan.govt.nz/ 
  • Wellington Greenhouse Gas Inventory --> http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/Climate-change/CommuntityGHGInventoryWlgtnCityRegion2016.pdf
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Targets --> https://wellington.govt.nz/services/environment-and-waste/environment/climate-change/greenhouse-gas-emission-reduction-targets 
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