Rotorua's waste is piling up - and some say it might be time to introduce fines for putting green waste in red bins.
Data in the Rotorua Lakes Council 2020 Annual Report reveals the council is failing to meet household waste reduction targets.
Council infrastructure manager Stavros Michael said stalled collection of recycling due to the Covid-19 lockdown had a big impact.
Between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, Rotorua households each generated 532kg of general waste, exceeding the council's target of 310kg per household by 71.6 per cent.
"Anecdotal evidence suggests that dumping of green waste as refuse may have contributed to the change, along with impacts of Covid-19 lockdown and growing population. This result has identified the need for waste minimisation incentivisation or training," the Annual Report stated.
Waste management cost the council $8,005,000 in 2019/2020. Of that, $6,994,000 came from general or targeted rates.
The target for household general waste had sunk year-on-year, from 336kg per household in 2016 to 310kg in 2020.
The Annual Report also showed Rotorua was failing to meet the council's target for the collection of green and wood waste. In the year to June 30, 4718 tonnes were collected, falling short of the target to collect at least 7000 tonnes.
The explanation for this in the report was that there were "several green or wood waste collection facilities … and there is a substantial amount of green waste going into the red [general waste] bins".
The district had been significantly increasing its collection of recyclables year-on-year, from 3351 tonnes collected in 2016 to 5342 tonnes in 2020.
That figure was less than the 5695 tonnes collected in 2019 and below the 2020 target of at least 5500 tonnes.
However, as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, all recycling had been suspended for that period - a loss of up to 700 tonnes of recycling, the report stated, adding the measure was on target until the third quarter of the year.
Green Drinks Rotorua committee member Jenny Lux said it was not all on the council's shoulders to minimise waste.
"It's disappointing the people are not reducing their waste. We all have to take some personal responsibility for that.
"It's a symptom of our overly wasteful society and our generally poor eating habits ... eating from packets and often not having any choice about that.
"Mainly well-off and well-educated people go in search of minimally packaged food and those who are time poor, cash-strapped and unaware fall back on Pakn'Save with its many individually packaged wares."
She said while Covid-19 "didn't help", the Government also had to step up.
"If central government made it illegal or harder to buy wasteful products, then councils would not have so much volume to collect.
"It's not just food waste, but consumer goods waste, like styrofoam, which I'm glad to see the Government is now investigating phasing out.
"[The council] need to make more of an effort on education around green waste composting at home."
Lux agreed waste minimisation efforts and training needed to be stepped up, but said disincentives may be needed too.
She suggested a yearly waste audit instead of anecdotal evidence, and fines for putting green waste in red bins.
Michael said general waste minimisation performance was impacted by the disposal of more than 500 tonnes of recyclables during lockdown.
"During [lockdown], a large number of residents filled their yellow bins with green waste, which also contributed significantly to overall waste volumes to landfill."
He said about 30 per cent of rubbish collected in red bins was green waste.
"Diverting green waste away from landfills would substantially reduce our waste to disposal tonnages."
Michael said bigger recycling bins, systematic recycling campaigns and "general awareness in the community" about recycling and sustainability contributed to improvements in recycling figures.
He said the council's 2016-2022 waste management and minimisation strategy had anticipated the introduction of additional diversion options which were "yet to occur".
"Population as well as our visitor growth in recent years contributed to additional waste generation."
"We are currently planning and discussing organic waste diversion in Rotorua for potential inclusion in the next Long-term Plan.
"If approved, this would have the potential to reduce our waste collection by 40 to 50 per cent… and increase green waste collection by 3000 tonnes a year."