IN 397 AD, Augustine of Hippo, better known to most of us as St Augustine, wrote an autobiography reflecting upon the sins and immoral acts of his youth. It was called Confessions in Thirteen Books and is now often published under the title of The Confessions of Saint Augustine. This book is thought to have been the first ever autobiography.

Even Whanganui has been touched by this famous theologian and philosopher, through St Augustine's College, which honoured his name for many years. It was founded here in 1944 and later became Cullinane College after combining with Sacred Heart College in 2003.

So it is with the confessions of St Augustine in mind and after a lifetime of shortcomings that I now feel the need to come clean and confess the sins of my own past. Sorry to disappoint some of you conspiracy and hidden-agenda theorists out there, but this is not going to be a Harvey Weinstein, Richard Nixon or Milli Vanilli moment.

I must confess, however, that it was only two years ago that I became a born-again recycler of household materials. So now, with this newfound commitment and with the zealotry of the born-again Christians who probably believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden and who incessantly write letters to this newspaper, I want to try and convert you non-recycling heathens to the faith of recycling.


I have to be honest and say that I did not become a born-again recycler without putting up an indignant and vigorous fight. Sadly, I was no match for the ever diplomatic and determined Lady Main (former Mayor of Whanganui), herself a devout recycler. Her logic inflicted guilt within me and helped transform my thinking into that of a heroic caped crusader with visions of saving the world from those who would destroy it with their voluminous trash (the 75 per cent savings I made from reducing my street rubbish collection fees had nothing to do with it).

But why did it take me so long to see the foolishness of my wicked former ways? Well basically, my conclusion was that if the Whanganui District Council couldn't be bothered introducing kerbside recycling then it can't be that important, so why should I bother? Surprisingly, though, this devout recycling fervour was starting to spread throughout the community and that was confirmed by the multitudes I saw on their mecca-like pilgrimage to the recycling centre every day, but for me it was all too much of a hassle and too time-consuming.

And, after all, how could Whanganui District Council justify such high rates when it doesn't even include rubbish removal and recycling in our rates? Well, as Lady Main explained to me, we could indeed have kerbside recycling, along with anything else our hearts desired, if we wanted to pay for it, but that means even higher rates, because nothing is free. However, as she avowed, where is the personal responsibility if the district council collected our recycling and why should those people who make the effort to recycle pay for lazy buggers like me? So… what has my experience of recycling been like? To be honest, it wasn't easy to start with.

I had to form a new habit, and that's never easy for most of us. Rather than putting all my rubbish into the same rubbish bin, I now had to sort it into rubbish and recycling. I then had to take it to the Whanganui Resource Recycling Centre in Maria Place Extension although more centres are coming to the suburbs soon, hopefully. Then I had to sort it once again into a dozen different bin. That process takes time and is no easy task when you first start because the recycling numbers on the bottom of all those plastic boxes we use are so small.

One or two of the recycling centre staff behind the bins were also very intolerant of newbies like me who persistently put the wrong type of plastic in the wrong bin.
I came close to calling it quits a couple of times and once I nearly threw my recycling bin at one particularly intolerant, stroppy dude (perhaps a course in public relations might benefit some staff?) but it really does get easier, I can assure you.

So now I simply do my recycling every few days on the way to buying my daily drug of choice — caffeine. I would highly recommend you non-believers try a spot of recycling for at least a month. You will also save yourself quite a few bucks to boot and that might help pay for your caffeine addiction, if you have one.

Steve Baron
Steve Baron

Steve Baron is a political commentator, author and Founder of Better Democracy NZ. He holds a degree in Economics & Honours degree in Political Science.