By Samantha Motion
In nine months, every household in Tauranga and the majority in the Western Bay of Plenty will be delivered two or three new wheelie bins as councils take back kerbside collections from the private sector.
All-new bins will be bought for the services, fitted with microchips identifying the address each bin belonged to and potentially used in the future to charge ratepayers based on the weight of their rubbish.
Tauranga has budgeted $8.1 million to buy bins, while Western Bay has set aside $2.6-$2.8m. Final costs were yet to be confirmed.
But what about the tens of thousands - at least - of perfectly good bins already sitting on properties around the region, owned by private businesses that may have no further use for them after the council services start on July 1?
"Why can't they be reused?"
That's Matua resident Adam Hughes' question.
The IT business owner said he had been going through a sustainability awakening in recent years, inspired by his environmentally-conscious teenage daughter.
He said it made no sense for the councils to spend millions buying and delivering all-new bins when there were plenty already in circulation.
The microchips - RFID tags - could be added behind a durable sticker, he believed.
He said the "worst-case scenario" would be thousands of bins chucked into landfill, an outcome he said would be "an abuse of the environment".
Throwing old bins into landfill is not what Kleana Bins operator John Cruickshanks wants either - for cost as well as waste reasons - but it's an option on the table as he faces losing the majority of his kerbside collection clients.
He has been trying to work out what to do with the thousands of wheelie bins he has in circulation - never mind how to collect, clean, repair and store them all in a short space of time.
"We're going to be inundated with 8000-9000 wheelie bins over two weeks at the end of June ... It's going to be a mammoth undertaking."
He hoped to open a new branch office in Whanganui and be able to reuse some there, but had no guarantees.
And even then, he expected he would still have "several thousand" surplus bins.
He had sold some in the past to other businesses or individuals here and there, but that was not a bulk solution.
"In the past, I might have managed to sell 20 or 30 a year."
He had also previously looked into options for recycling the bins without success, although he planned to look further at that possibility.
The Bay of Plenty Times also approached other private operators in the region about what they planned to do with excess bins.
A spokesperson for Waste Management said the company was working through its plans for the region and would be communicating directly with customers.
Wheelie bins can be recycled and made into new bins in New Zealand.
Elaine Tippett of Auckland-based Astron Sustainability said the company could chip up end-of-life wheelie bins and turn them into blocks of resin that can be sold to manufacturers to make new bins.
She said the company would pay a rebate for bulk lots of bins that met certain criteria -including being clean and with wheels and axles removed.
A wheelie bin manufacturer said new council bins were typically comprised of about 10 per cent recycled material.
Both the Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Councils said they were looking into how many bins were already in circulation.
They confirmed the option of buying existing bins had not been discussed with private operators.
A Tauranga council spokeswoman said this was because it could not know how much use was left in the existing bins, and it would be more expensive to retrofit them with RFID tags than to manufacture the new bins.
"The cost of retrofitting tags is significantly more than installing during manufacturing – not because of the price of the tag nor the physical fitting into a bin – but due to access to the bins if doing it at the kerbside.
"Generally, you would have to send staff around the streets quite a number of times to collect the bins, and you still may not have containers present."
She said they were asking companies what they planned to do with their bins, and some may be able to use them in other areas they serviced.
"We are looking at ways we can help waste companies with existing bins that can't be reused in other areas to recycle these bins instead of them ending up in landfill."
Western Bay utilities manager Kelvin Hill said the council's contractor EnviroWaste - which is also Tauranga's contractor - was purchasing the district's bins as part of its agreed service.
He said the council was talking to the contractor about how existing bins could be recycled if necessary, and to ensure landfill was the last option.
That could include refurbishing and reusing parts or having them chipped up and used for new bins.
"Further discussions will be happening as we progress through the implementation phase."
Both councils said they were in an unusual situation compared to other councils that had updated their kerbside services recently. Most were replacing services that were already council-run, so they did not have private waste companies with bins already in circulation.