It's been just over a month since we announced the kerbside waste collections that will be introduced for all households from July 1, 2021.
This was off the back of the earlier decision in 2018 to introduce council-led collections, after 66 per cent of the community were in favour of this approach in submissions to the Long Term Plan 2018-28.
The service will make reducing waste easier, more accessible and more affordable for our community, and is expected to halve the amount of waste the average household sends to landfill by 2028.
Yes, that's right, halve the amount.
The majority of households will see their current waste costs reduced too, while receiving a more comprehensive service that allows recyclables and food scraps to be separated at the source from rubbish that needs to go to landfill.
The cost of the new service is $230 including GST for the first year and includes the existing charge for the glass recycling service of $37 a year. The service provides households with a dedicated rubbish, recycling, food scraps and glass recycling collection for the same cost as using one and a half rubbish bags a week today.
The new service is a big change for our city and it's timely to share some insights into the questions and concerns we've been hearing from some of our residents.
I already compost and recycle, so this is going to cost more than I currently pay. Why can't we opt-out?
The current system is "opt-in" and has resulted in nearly 70 per cent of household waste unnecessarily being sent to landfill, when it could have been recycled or composted instead.
If households could "opt-out" of the new service, we wouldn't benefit from the low overall cost that a city-wide service delivers. A more convenient, city-wide service also means people who were unable, or chose not to take part in reducing their waste in the past, are more likely to take part now.
Won't the food scraps bin get smelly and gross?
Households that already compost or use a worm farm will be used to having containers to collect food scraps, as well as rinsing out the containers when necessary. For those not used to this, some newspaper at the bottom can help keep the bin cleaner.
The smell of the food scraps bin will be no different to the smell of food scraps that are currently put into rubbish bins, as food scraps will be collected weekly.
Isn't it better to put food scraps down the in-sink disposal?
Food placed down the sink disposer is extracted from our wastewater system and transported to landfill – a wasteful and costly exercise. Using the food scraps collection not only avoids this, but also means food scraps can have a second, useful life as compost.
Why can't I keep using council rubbish bags and taking my recycling to the transfer station?
The existing rubbish bag system will stop on June 30, 2021. Our transfer stations would need significant investment if they were to continue operating as the main collection point for our city's recycling. Introducing kerbside recycling will reduce the current usage of our transfer stations, freeing them up to provide other services to help further reduce our city's waste.
Won't the bins take up too much space at my house and on the kerbside?
There will be two wheelie bins for rubbish and recycling, along with the existing small glass crate and an even smaller bin for food scraps.
These bins will take up less than 2 metres of space when placed side by side. As collections are staggered over a fortnight, only one of your wheelie bins will need to be taken to the kerbside each week.
What if I can't manage getting the bins to the kerbside?
We encourage anyone worried about this to contact us to see if they will qualify for our free assisted service.
Why did we choose rates-funded rubbish collections instead of 'pay-as-you-throw' (PAYT)?
The rubbish service chosen is a rates-funded collection which includes different sized/cost bin options from year two, charged annually. The procurement process for the new service found rates-funded rubbish collections were more cost-effective for the average household, and our city as a whole, when compared with a PAYT rubbish collection.
Rates-funded collections are also more convenient, as there is no need to purchase a tag to attach to the bin for collection.
Feedback received from the community in the Long Term Plan 2018 showed 66 per cent of submitters were in favour of introducing rates-funded collections, and our recent Talking Trash survey showed 61 per cent preferred charging for rubbish specifically through property rates, 39 per cent preferred PAYT, and 79 per cent agreed that having different sized/cost bins would improve the service.
One of the main reasons some people prefer PAYT is that it provides a financial incentive for people to reduce their waste. However, our current rubbish bag service is a PAYT system, and almost 70 per cent of household waste we're sending to landfill could be recycled or composted instead.
Unfortunately, PAYT also leads to contaminated recycling bins and an increase in illegal dumping, from people trying to avoid the cost of rubbish disposal.
Other councils that have introduced similar rates-funded rubbish collections (rather than PAYT) have seen a significant reduction in the amount of household waste going to landfill.
To make things work best for Tauranga, we'll be having different bin size/cost options (from year 2) which will provide an element of financial incentive to reduce waste, as the larger bins will cost more.
We do appreciate that a pay-by-weight system could be a good next step, once our community is consistently using the food scraps and recycling collections, and the necessary technological advances are made in this space.
Our service has been future-proofed to be ready for this when available, if this is what the community wants. Find out more about the new kerbside collections at www.tauranga.govt.nz/kerbsidecollections
Nic Johansson is the general manager: Infrastructure at Tauranga City Council