Tauranga residents are filling their rubbish bins with waste that should not be there.
A city-wide audit found 70 per cent of waste sent to landfill from Tauranga kerbside collections could be recycled or composted.
Household food waste made up most of the kerbside waste that could be diverted from landfill.
Why Waste's Leo Murray helped sift through 13,913kg of waste from council rubbish bags, private rubbish bags and private collector rubbish bins to collect data for the audit.
"What sifting through our city's waste piece by piece and logging of all it showed me was we have a lot of room for improvement," he said.
The audit of spring 2016 and summer 2017 was the first audit done in such detail.
Having the information showed the ecological illiteracy of Tauranga residents, Mr Murray said.
"I don't know if people are just uneducated about it, or not aware or don't care...there are solutions that people aren't acting on because they don't know there is a solution.
"Organic waste is, in my opinion, the most obvious thing we need to tackle, and it's as simple as putting the waste into your backyard," Mr Murray said.
Worm farms and compost would help reduce the 35 per cent of kitchen waste heading to landfills.
Mr Murray recommended worm farms for urban areas as composting required more space and was faster, cleaner and less susceptible to rats, mice and smells.
Worms eat up food scraps and produce fertiliser and could be easily set up in any backyard.
Mr Murray said it was not enough to sit around waiting for the council to come up with solutions and make the problem go away - a lot of this issue was up to residents as individuals to make behavioural changes.
The last kerbside waste audit was undertaken in 2013 and was limited to city council rubbish bags.
Tauranga's recycling report card had worsened in comparison with the last kerbside waste audit conducted in 2013 when 65 per cent of the waste in a rubbish bag was recyclable, which has cast some shadow on the current system of "user pays" recycling.
Environmental Committee chairman and Councillor Steve Morris said Tauranga had been let down by the current waste management system.
"We can't keep going the way we are; there's got to be a change."
He said it was a complicated issue but plenty of options faced the council, including council intervention.
Council intervention had its upsides and downsides, including potentially increased recycling as the collection would be included in rates but that would destroy the livelihood of rubbish collection agencies.
Mr Morris said it would be great if the private sector stepped up and provided better value for money for recycling.
Mayor Greg Brownless said the council would have plenty to discuss to move Tauranga towards waste minimisation.
However, the question of moving away from a user-pays system was complex.
"There's various schools of thoughts on whether the council should get involved and charge through rates for recycling bins - will it make it easier, will people even use it and is it fair to charge people who are careful with their waste and recycle on their own property," Mr Brownless said.
2017 waste management audit
- council staff were tasked through the Waste Management and Minimisation Plan to study Tauranga waste
- funded by government waste levy
- further studies planned for fall and winter to establish a baseline for our community's waste habits
- data will be used to measure the effectiveness of any new services or changes to waste facilities going forward
- elected members will be presented with potential options through the next Long Term Plan
Contact Leo Murray at email@example.com for more information on worm farms.