A New Year's resolution to help the environment - think about it before you chuck things out. If there is one thing you probably didn't dwell on too much over your summer break it's the amount of waste we all produce and how it should be managed.

Yet you only need to look at how waste volumes change every holiday season to see how tightly the way we live and what we throw out are entwined.

At a holiday destination like Waiheke, for example, waste volumes jump 20 per cent in January. Perhaps testifying to all those end-of-year parties, Wellington glass recycling rockets by 38 per cent in December.

These days everyone wants to see waste minimised at source and as much as possible of what's left recycled.


At Waste Management we recycle 200,000 tonnes a year and are always looking to do more. But some waste can never be recycled. For example, we are currently dealing with soil excavated in downtown Auckland rendered hazardous by previous generations.

This has to be safely stored, as does waste that can't be cost-effectively recycled. And fortunately in meeting this need modern sustainable landfill technology has come a long way.

Our Redvale Energy Park and Landfill, for example, represents a $200 million investment. And at this site and at our Kate Valley and Whitford joint ventures we contain and treat all waste liquids and capture and recycle enough landfill gas to power 18,000 homes. At Redvale we also use this power to heat greenhouses for a local aubergine grower.

But as Auckland in particular grows so will the demand to manage waste. Smart infrastructural planning will be the key. Yet there is also a surprising amount that households and business can do.

Reducing waste is always the first step. You can make a difference by:

* Checking if you can return old electronic items like laptops to their manufacturer for recycling.

* Washing and putting out cans, bottles and cardboard for recycling.

* Reusing plastic bags and containers.


* Buying items in bulk and avoiding packaging you don't need.

* Donating unwanted goods rather than throwing them out.

* Selling or exchanging unwanted furniture and goods.

* Avoiding disposables -- take your own reusable drink bottle.

* Buy items loose and use refills.

You can dramatically cut the energy used in recycling by packing paper with paper, and glass with glass.

Please also think about the people who pick your waste up. Wrap broken glass in newspaper so those who deal with it are protected.

So, as you return to the normal working year how about adding a new resolution for 2015 - think about your waste before you throw it out - and about the difference that managing it well can make to our environment.

Tom Nickels is managing director of Waste Management New Zealand.