I'm still trying to decide whether Tauranga's planned rubbish takeover is a good idea, or not.
When I moved here almost a decade ago, I was surprised to learn rubbish collection wasn't on the menu of city services. In every place I'd ever lived, a city truck would rumble down the street each week to collect our detritus. It was one of many things a municipality did, like provide water, maintain roads, libraries, parks and issue parking tickets.
But Tauranga, in its peculiar way, had decided it would do everything with waste but collect it.
Landfill? Check. Sewage plant? Check. Kerbside bin collection? You're on your own.
Instead, half a dozen different companies' trucks ply our streets, collecting rubbish and recycling. Until late last year, I was a customer of one of those companies. I wasn't thrilled with the system. My bill kept growing while the level of service kept shrinking.
After we moved house, I decided to try chucking a council bag near the road to see what would happen. So far, so good. I've cut my rubbish collection bill in half. However, I visit the recycling centre every few weeks to dispose of the mounting pile of plastics, paper and cardboard that end up on the garage floor. It's a trade-off.
Normally, I'd be happy council was taking over a function cities worldwide handle adequately. But the track record of my adopted town when it comes to big projects has been less than stellar: We have a multimillion-dollar space in downtown Mount Maunganui that's more grey than green; an abandoned $19 million car parking project; and a failed housing development, to name a few recent debacles.
We also have some elected council members whose failure to play nice could cost ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to employ what amounts to a governmental referee.
In theory, the city has more buying power than individuals and therefore should facilitate rubbish collection. But the plan is off to a shaky start, after the council chose a Hong Kong-owned operator, EnviroWaste, and adopted a one-size-fits-all model where ratepayers pay the same amount regardless of how much or how little trash they throw.
New bin sizes with cheaper pricing are expected in the second year. Proponents say the plan could halve the amount of rubbish going to landfill and cost the average household half what they pay now for rubbish and recycling.
If the trash plan works as well as other council initiatives, it'll cost 25 per cent more than budgeted and rubbish will rot at the kerbside. Regardless, private operators are likely to be left with thousands of useless bins, because council plans to buy new ones with integrated radio frequency identification tags to track location. We're also getting weekly food scrap collection.
Hopefully a year from now, I'll be able to report how happy I am to no longer spend time trying to keep cardboard from sailing away at the Te Maunga recycling centre. That I'm grateful to strike pink-stickered plastic bags from my grocery list.
It's clear we need to put more effort into how we buy our food because I bring home too much paper and plastic. My teenagers consume 3L of milk every three days, so the recycling container fills fast.
Then there are the crackers in plastic trays, peanut butter in plastic, juice - in plastic. We need to attack the problem at its source. What could I buy in bulk? Can I find a source for milk and juice to pour into reusable containers without spending a lot more? (a quick check shows milk in glass bottles could cost about double what I pay now).
It's easy to find bulk carrots - what about bulk potato chips? A duo called the No-Waste Nomads have travelled the country looking for low-waste shops and on their website, therubbishtrip.co.nz, there's a list of places in the Bay of Plenty carrying bulk items, including liquids and cleaning products.
Another site, lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz has money-saving shopping tips and meal plans. This would make a great school holiday project for my teens when they're not sleeping or watching their phones.
We could all do with fewer plastic bottles and single-use containers. But on the flip side of people trying to do the right thing are idiots with an abundance of rubbish and a scarcity of scruples.
They're the ones tipping trash in parks and alongside roads. Some knuckleheads even burn their refuse, clogging the air with pollution and stench. Citywide waste collection could provide an easier way for people to bin their rubbish, leaving less incentive to scatter it throughout the countryside.
I'm willing to give council rubbish collection a go. I just hope they don't screw it up. And who knows? Next spring, our family might be producing a lot less waste.