Wellingtonian households among worst at recycling

A recycling truck unloads its material.
MURRAY WILSON/FAIRFAX NZ

A recycling truck unloads its material.

Wellington households are among the worst recyclers in New Zealand, and send almost twice as much waste to landfills as homes in Christchurch.

Food and green waste have been identified as the largest contributors to landfill, and the biggest opportunity to reduce waste, raising the question of whether households should be provided with green-waste bins.

Councils throughout the Wellington region have now come up with a waste management and minimisation plan, looking to guide improvements over the next decade, and organic waste looks likely to be a main target.

Sustainability Trust lead educator Thom Adams audits the recyclable waste.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Sustainability Trust lead educator Thom Adams audits the recyclable waste.

Wellington city councillor Iona Pannett, who co-chairs the joint committee that commissioned the plan, said more had to be done to reduce organic waste.

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"We haven't had any discussion over what kind of receptacle [to use], but you would have a bag or a bin."

Wellington Region Waste Management and Minimisation committee co-chair Iona Pannett said Wellington's topography ...
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington Region Waste Management and Minimisation committee co-chair Iona Pannett said Wellington's topography presented issues with waste collection.

The topography of Wellington presented problems with getting trucks to wheelie bins, but bags had their own problems, especially with pests, she said.

Public education might play a large part, by teaching residents how to effectively reduce and compost organic waste.

Law required the waste plan to be passed by all councils in the region by June, but no concrete decisions had yet been made, Pannett said.

"We [the committee] are not the decision-makers, the councils are. We will brief them throughout December, and then it will basically be consulted with the public as part of the Annual Plan process."

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Public consultation would be key, as one of the topics under discussion would be how to fund any changes.

Any substantial revamp to Wellington city's waste pickup services were likely to be five to 10 years away, when existing contracts expired.

Pannett said Auckland and Christchurch had invested far more heavily in their waste management systems, while Wellington had one person jointly employed by the region to manage the work.

"This is an exciting opportunity to have a conversation around the region about what we want waste management to look like," she said.

Sustainability Trust lead educator Thom Adams said he was surprised the Wellington region compared so poorly on rates of recycling, with most residents he encountered very engaged on the subject.

He said user-pays systems in the region should be replaced with rates-funded ones. "Having it included in the rates and as a service is a much better way of getting the community engaged in that behavior."

BY THE NUMBERS:

* The average Wellingtonian recycles 53kg at the kerbside annually, down from 59kg five years ago.

* Targets look to increase this number to 67kg in a decade.

* The average Wellingtonian sends 600kg to landfill per year (including commercial waste).

* The waste management plan seeks to reduce this number to 400kg in a decade.

* Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt residents were the worst polluters nationally, sending on average 874kg to landfill.

* Wellington city ranked around the middle, with residents sending 500kg to landfill every year.

* Gisborne district had the lowest landfill waste per capita, at 305kg annually.

* Only Napier scored below Wellington on rates of kerbside recycling, with the average resident recycling 52kg compared with 53kg in Wellington.

* Cantabrians were the best recyclers, each sending 109kg annually.

 - Stuff

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