Zero waste Auckland household puts virtually nothing in its bin

Last updated 14:33 22/02/2016

Recycling enthusiast and zero waste lifestyler, Waveney Warth talks to about ways of reducing your waste footprint

Fairtrade Germany / Miriam Ersch
Waveney Warth wishes people would consider composting more, such as banana skins which create methane when buried in a landfill.

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Waveney Warth creates no rubbish.

Well, almost. The Auckland resident says there is the odd thing she can't find any way of recycling, such as pill packets and the seals off the top of milk bottles - "plastics composites are diabolical", she says.

But what her household throws away amounts to less than an Auckland Council rubbish bag a year.

In 2008. when she first took up the challenge of going waste-free for a year, she and her partner produced just 2kgs of waste. They keep the bag of rubbish as a memorial.

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Now it's become a habit, a lifestyle that makes increasing sense as Auckland moves towards a pay-per-throw system of rubbish collection.

Being zero waste sounds like an impossible challenge, and as someone who works in waste minimisation for a job she's not advocating it for everyone.

"For us this has always been a really personal thing," she says.

Her household has an underground worm farm in the front yard into which they drop their dog's doings through a pipe  - collected in biodegradable bags, of course.

They buy in bulk to avoid excess packaging, including storing 20 litre containers of shampoo and dishwashing liquid in the garage, and getting the butcher to fill a plastic container with mince every couple of months, which they then break up into portions.

The fringe benefits are that it's so much cheaper, and she doesn't have to shop as often, Warth says.

She is delighted she can now recycle so-called soft plastic bags - things such as biscuit wrappers and rice packets -  at various retailers including Pak'nSave and The Warehouse.

The couple composts using a New Zealand-designed Hungry Bin which takes cardboard, hair and vacuum cleaner dust along with the usual fruit and vegetable scraps.

It all sounds like it takes a high level of organisation.

A bit of conscious effort is required initially, Warth concedes.

"But it's like once you work out where the bus goes it's easy.

"I think it's a bit of a plateau you experience after you change your habits and solve a few problems."

She is also an avid secondhand shopper, and the decor of her neat North Shore home is retro chic.

She believes in buying products made out of organic and lasting materials - such as their leather fly swat.

"It's just thinking about it and choosing materials that won't be rubbish as the end of their lives."

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One thing Warth would like people to consider doing more of is composting.

"Fifty per cent of what's in the average rubbish bag is food and garden waste, and that's the stuff that's the most harmfull in the landfill," she says.

For example a banana skin breaking down without oxygen creates methane, which is 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

Ian Stupple, Warth's boss at the council's waste solutions team, says within a couple of years Aucklanders will begin paying for their rubbish collection based on the amount they throw out.

The council already knows it works. In areas such as the North Shore and Waitakere, where residents use pay-as-you-throw bags, the amount of rubbish generated is up to a third less.

"The volumes per household  are less than say, Manukau, which is rates funded and you can put out as many bags as you like," Stupple says.

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