Morgan Tait

Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's consumer affairs reporter.

Rubbish trial is food for thought

Council says 70% of households are now participating in trial scheme to stop organic waste going to landfill

Nadezna Walsh with her two sons, 13-year-old Nathaniel Walsh (L) and Xavier Walsh (R) at their home in Northcote. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Nadezna Walsh with her two sons, 13-year-old Nathaniel Walsh (L) and Xavier Walsh (R) at their home in Northcote. Photo / Sarah Ivey

A North Shore family of three produced 20 litres of food waste last week, and cut their rubbish bag use by more than half using a separate bin for their organic scraps.

Nadezna Walsh and her two sons, Xavier, 12, and Nathaniel, 13, are one Northcote Central family taking part in an Auckland Council trial of food waste bins.

The Walshes kept a record of their food wastage of one week and reported their findings to the Herald.

It is estimated that the average Auckland resident sends 80kg of organic waste to landfill each year, and the council's recycling initiative - set to be introduced across the city in 2016 - hopes to turn that into compost or soil conditioner.

Auckland Council solid waste manager Ian Supple said that in the first three weeks of the trial 13 tonnes of organic waste had been produced from 2000 North Shore households given the bins.

Now in the fourth week of a 14-week trial, 70 per cent of households were actively participating by putting their 23-litre bins out for collection each week and filling them with organic material only, Mr Supple said.

Ms Walsh said the bins had dramatically changed how much rubbish her family sent to landfill and had made her think twice about how many groceries she was buying.

"I am honestly so surprised by how much I am not putting in the normal rubbish," she said. "I didn't realise how much I was putting into the bin.

"When I went to the supermarket I came home and got rid of all the crinkly things and it made me realise how much I actually waste."

A self-confessed "greenie", Ms Walsh said she had always recycled and the family would produce about two bags of rubbish for collection each week.

In the past three weeks, the family had produced only two.

"The biggest emphasis I can make is that there hasn't been that much normal rubbish any more. I am really passionate about it now."

Having the bin had also reduced rubbish odour and stopped attracting neighbourhood animals, she said.

A Ministry for the Environment spokesman said that if not disposed of properly, waste - including organic waste - contributed to pollution either by leaching into waterways or by breaking down into methane gas.

"To improve the environmental future of New Zealand, we need to start taking responsibility for the waste we produce by finding more effective and efficient ways to reduce, reuse, recycle or reprocess it," he said.

While residents will have to make their own compost bin or organise green waste collection until the new system kicks in, many Auckland businesses are beginning to adopt the practice. Auckland commercial food waste collection company We Compost collects up to eight tonnes of organic waste from its 150 clients each week.

Owner Steve Rickerby said it was becoming more common for businesses to separate their waste.

But he believed few people were transferring the idea to waste produced at home.

- NZ Herald

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