Waste Minimisation or an Opportunity Missed

Auckland’s Draft Waste Minimisation Plan (DWWP) has to be applauded for its laudable goals. If we always waited for the absolutely perfect plan we would never move forward. What follows should not be taken as a criticism of the Council. More a consideration of the next step.

Who are the winners and losers in this plan? Is there an elephant in the room that takes the shape of Commercial Waste? And are there any other possible solutions that might offer a better way forward for all of us.

Let’s have a look at the winners. At first glance we all win from a reduction in landfill. I think we can all agree on that.

Commercial Composters appear to be the big winner. It’s hard to get an answer but it appears that these out of Auckland businesses will rapidly expand with our organic waste headed in their direction and presumably onwards to their bank accounts. Whilst I have no objection to businesses succeeding I would hate that success to be predicated on our losses.

Construction and development businesses appear to be the other big winner. Whilst household waste has dramatically reduced this commercial waste has dramatically increased. The cost of dumping this construction waste is a fraction of what is charged to businesses using landfills around the world. They may say that they can’t afford that charge to increase but can we afford it not to? Could we not encourage them to find better uses of waste instead of making dumping financially easier? I understand that it costs $10 per tonne of waste here. In Australia it is $130 with other countries charging up to $300 per tonne.

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So Auckland businesses appear to be the winners and the rest of us are actually losing in-spite of our valiant efforts to reduce household waste. Despite our efforts there has been a 40% increase in overall waste. That has to change.

The losers. Well, as above, clearly householders are seeing no benefit from their waste reduction. Now we are being targeted for a $67 increase in our rates. This sum will pay for our organic waste to be collected and transported out of town for businesses to turn it into profit in the way of compost. Even if we compost all our organic waste ourselves, even if we compost our neighbour’s waste, we still get stung with a rate that everyone pays.

There is no incentive for households or communities to compost themselves. Instead, those of us that religiously compost will have to watch organic waste trucks, spewing out pollution, crawl down our streets and onto our already clogged State Highway 1 heading off to some non Auckland bank account.

Now to possible solutions. Firstly let’s start by rewarding communities and households who compost. Our street has about sixty properties. That’s over $4000 dollars to have our organic waste collected for big business benefit. How about we deal with our own organic waste and keep our $4000? How about we don’t have a gas guzzling truck enter our street? Around ten worm baths, a few more composting options and a bit of community spirit and we could easily achieve this. As could many, many streets if given the chance. I reckon many small communities could easily tackle that waste and provide compost locally reducing the carbon footprint enormously.

If ten streets our size got together we could employ someone to do the collections using shanks’ pony. This wouldn’t work everywhere but I know plenty of places where it would work. Theoretically it could be a game changer in terms of employment and soil improvement.

Another part of the solution has to be putting a reasonable or even punitive levy on businesses that are presently dumping with virtually no consequences for their actions. Let’s encourage them to see that the planet belongs to all of us, our children and future generations. At $200 a tonne businesses would still have a bargain but might start thinking about recycling.

This is about equity. Why should those of us who are trying to make the world a better place finance the businesses that clearly benefit from the status quo?

-Steve McCarthy