Get the recycling right - teach them when they are young - and we will start seeing a change for future generations.
That's the message behind a new education room at Hamilton's recycling plant from where youngsters can safely see the huge sorting line in action and have a go themselves on a scaled down version with mixed recycling.
At the launch this week Hamilton City Council and Envirowaste hailed the new waste minimisation education room as another step to fight recycling contamination.
The room is at Hamilton's Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Sunshine Ave, Te Rapa, and will be used to help educate residents, as well as school and community groups about the new kerbside service and raise awareness of waste minimisation.
Chairwoman of the Infrastructure Operations Committee, councillor Angela O'Leary says: "It is an amazing resource to help educating our community. We are aware that we need to educate from an early age, so at the education room, kids are able to experience, touch and see things through interactive stations."
The purpose-built room is, after New Plymouth, the second of its kind in the country and features a large window overlooking the machine that sorts through all of Hamilton's kerbside mixed recycling and has a scaled down play version for children to use to sort recycling.
O'Leary says: "My favourite feature is the large wall decal that highlights council's goals and vision for waste minimisation – straight from our Waste Management and Minimisation Plan. It's an easy way for kids and adults to understand what we're trying to achieve, and how we plan on doing it."
The council's infrastructure operations general manager, Eeva-Liisa Wright, says she can still remember writing a proposal for the room in 2014.
"Seeing it in action now is so rewarding. Once we get the recycling right, we will start seeing a change for future generations."
At the MRF, mixed recycling and general waste are collected in two different sheds. After the trucks drop off the recycling, it is loaded onto a conveyor belt to start the processing journey. A rotating drum controls the amount of material going onto the belt at one time. The items then get separated into the different material groups.
Each recycling truck has eight cameras recognising stolen bins and most importantly contamination.
EnviroWaste Waikato King Country area manager David Wilson says: "The cameras allow our seven drivers to see contamination before it goes into the truck. Although there are people out there who just don't care about recycling properly, we are making steady progress in avoiding contamination. The key is education, because there is still some confusion around what can and can't be recycled."
The MRF is also a charging point for six electric trucks, five of them for collecting food scraps and one for collecting glass. All five food scrap trucks together drive 7000km a month collecting the green bins from the kerbside. One truck has the capacity to collect 4 tons of food scraps over 50 to 80km a day - on just one overnight charge.
The food scraps are taken to Hampton Downs where they begin a 10-week cycle to be transformed into compost which is then reused in Hamilton's parks and gardens.
Council staff are currently putting together an education plan for school groups and will soon announce when groups are able to sign up to visit the waste minimisation education room.