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Waste Education

Being waste aware

It’s about thinking before we buy...

The surest way to keep rubbish out of the landfill is not to buy things that will end up there.

By rethinking our buying habits we can avoid worrying about what to do with rubbish, have less impact on the environment, and keep rates down by spending less on the landfill. By not buying products with excess packaging or in packaging for which there is no recycling market, we also send manufacturers and retailers the message that we want less packaging.

Every step to reduce waste production helps, so consider the following challenges:

  • Buy loose fruit and vegetables and paper wrapped bread.
  • If you do have to buy a product in plastic, choose one that we can be sure is recycled - a bottle stamped 1, 2 or 5.
  • Take reusable bags when shopping. • Choose products with less packaging or recyclable packaging.
  • Buy yourself a couple of reusable coffee cups and water bottles for carrying in the car or on the bike.
  • Consider using cloth nappies for baby whenever possible.

One of the more recent issues is the number of products that are marked as recyclable, biodegradable or compostable. In New Zealand, in many cases, they are not.

Typical examples are ‘compostable or biodegradable’ coffee cups and ‘compostable or biodegradable’ disposable nappies. Our landfills are closely compacted for health and safety and space reasons. That compaction does not allow air to get to the rubbish. This means that the conditions are not right for composting – anything that goes into a landfill is not composted.

For similar reasons, these products should not be added to home compost piles – the conditions are not suitable for composting things like nappies or plastic coffee cup lids.

The same with recycling claims. A product can only be recycled into a new product if there is a facility that can handle it. In New Zealand, with our small population, there are a limited number of facilities that can handle things like soft plastics.

More information on biodegradable and compostable plastics is available in this publication by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

We are lucky in Hawke’s Bay in that every last shred of paper and cardboard put out for kerbside recycling is processed locally – turned into apple and pear trays. In fact, the company doing the recycling cannot get enough of it!

The other products we can recycle easily are clean glass bottles and jars (not drinking glasses, window glass, spectacles, mirror or crystal . . .). The bottles and jars are crushed locally and then shipped to a recycling company in Auckland which processes the glass into new bottles and jars.

Plastics are more problematic, primarily because it is difficult to convince people to wash their bottles before putting them out for recycling, and that the types of plastics that recyclers are prepared to take are limited. In Hastings, we collect only bottles marked 1 and 2. While Council is collecting bottles of all colours, the market prefers clear and opaque bottles. We need to sort the plastics that we can recycle from those we can’t. Including plastics that cannot be recycled (here or internationally) risks the whole lot going to landfill.

Unsurprisingly, there is almost no market for smelly, dirty plastic. We need to keep it clean!

Why should I reduce my waste?

It is really awesome that you’ve decided to click this link and take a look at ways you might be able to reduce your waste. Let’s start by looking at why we all need to think about the waste we’re producing and reducing it where we can.

Conserving Resources and Energy

Waste = Resources

Resources = Energy

Energy = Emissions

The things we buy and use take a lot of energy and resources to create. When we throw away these things to landfill, we are wasting this energy and resources.

The process of mining, refining and manufacturing products is responsible for emitting harmful greenhouse gas emissions which are damaging to the environment, as well as using valuable resources that are not in infinite supply, so it is important we do our part every day.

Consider the Waste Hierarchy

1. Refuse

1. Refuse

Say no to single-use or wasteful things

2. Reduce

2. Reduce

Only buy what you really need

3. Reuse

3. Reuse

Sell, donate or keep using things until they are broken

4. Repair

4. Repair

Keep things in use by fixing them.

5. Repurpose

5. Repurpose

Find new ways to use things.

6. Rot

6. Rot

Turn organic waste in to nutrient-rich soil.

7. Recycle

7. Recycle

Ensure resources can be used again

Recycling is the last choice on this list because while it is better than sending waste to the landfill, it is the least efficient way to look after our resources and reduce our impact on the environment.

Conserving landfill space

One of the very important reasons to reduce waste is to conserve space in Omarunui landfill, which is where all of our rubbish goes. By reducing the amount of rubbish going into the landfill, we reduce the amount of greenhouse gases it generates, and put off the need to spend millions of dollars on a new filling area.

Lowering our litter levels

The more waste we produce the more likely it is to enter our environment as litter. In Hastings, litter on our roads goes into the stormwater system, which empties into Te Karamu Stream and out to sea.

Saving money

Waste costs! New Zealand’s avoidable food waste alone runs to more than $870 million a year, or $563 per household a year.

By producing less waste at home we can put out our bins for collection less and be eligible for a rebate if they’re put out less than half the year.

By creating less waste at work, by diverting reusable and recyclable materials, our businesses can save significant amounts of money on disposal fees.

Waste reduction at home

To start we suggest checking out some fantastic resources already available, including:

  • The Rubbish Trip: Hannah and Liam started zero waste living in 2015 and have put together some really handy guides and tips about how to reduce waste. Check out their article 'Zero Waste Grocery Shopping New Zealand'.
  • Zero Waste in NZ! Explore the posts in this Facebook group. It has thousands of members all trying to make some changes in their lifestyle to reduce their waste. Combines, there is a wealth of experience on the page from people who are more than happy to respond whenever someone posts a question about waste.  
  • There are plenty more, including Living Zero Waste in New Zealand and Rubbish Free.


Start with an audit of all of the waste you produce as a household: rubbish and recycling.

  1. Determine the time frame of your audit. Will you be auditing a day, week, or fortnight worth of waste?
  2. Set down a tarp, newspaper, or other protective covering on the floor before you begin the audit. Ideally, you’ll find an indoor space so no rubbish blows away, but opt for tiled floors instead of carpet so any leaks can be cleaned up easily.
  3. Go through your waste and list each item. For each recurring item, add a tally mark next to the written item.
  4. Once you’ve been through all of your waste, organise the list of items from highest frequency to lowest.
  5. This will give you a visual roadmap that will help you figure out where you can make the biggest impact.

Every household is different and things like your lifestyle and family size will determine your most common items, but the top items are likely to include organic waste, plastics and other packaging, sanitary items (period products and nappies), and clothing.

About half of the waste we put out for kerbside rubbish collection is organic waste (garden and food waste) which doesn’t need to be put in to our landfill – and we don’t want it there!

Organic waste doesn’t break down properly in landfill. It is compacted down so tightly so that there is no oxygen in the system, which means it can’t compost, and instead produces carbon dioxide, methane and leachate.

Take a look at some organic waste disposal options to help you reduce your organic waste at home.  

Food is one of the most wasted items in our households and we are throwing away an average of $563 worth of food a year; that’s the equivalent of three full shopping trolleys every year!

Luckily the very handy website Love Food Hate Waste has recipes for leftover food, storage tips to make your food last longer, and other tips on how to reduce food waste.

Zeron wasteThe build-up of plastic in the environment has become a top concern for New Zealanders. Recent studies show that 72 per cent of people are concerned about this issue.

By choosing to shop differently we can reduce the amount of single-use plastic and other packaging we are using. With these personal changes we are also telling producers that we don’t want over-packaged, wasteful products, which will encourage them to change.

For information on shops that use less packaging or businesses that offer refills of things like dry foods, spices, nuts, beauty and cleaning products, check out The Rubbish Trip’s handy Hawke’s Bay zero waste shopping guide and interactive map.  

Sanitary items (pads, tampons, nappies and wet wipes) make up about 14 per cent of Hastings’ kerbside rubbish collection! This isn’t surprising considering the most common types of sanitary items are designed to be used only once.

There are currently no ways to recycle sanitary items, however there are so many other reusable options out there that you can use over and over again – which will save you money and reduce your waste footprint.


If a family is using only disposable nappies, each of their babies will use between 4900 and 5900 disposable nappies before they are fully toilet-trained – all of them going to landfill. This is a huge cost, and these nappies will take up to 500 years to break down in the landfill.

Pads and tampons:

The average woman uses 11,000 tampons over her lifetime. Flushing tampons down the toilet is a big no-no as these tampons end up clogging our waste water plants. Tampons and pads (and their associated plastic wrapping) sent to landfill will take up to 500 years to break down.

There are many alternatives to single-use period products that will save you money and they are much better for the environment than single use options.
Options include menstrual cups, reusable pads, or ‘period undies.’

Wet wipes:

When wet wipes are flushed down the toilet, they can cause blockages that can pollute our waterways.

Your pack says ‘flushable’ wet wipes?

There are some products that say they are flushable, but you could technically flush many things down the toilet – that doesn’t mean they won’t clog up the wastewater system and take years to biodegrade.

Many of us are unaware that the majority of wet wipes contain plastic and other synthetic materials, which means they don’t disintegrate like toilet paper.
Wet wipes lurk in pipes and bind with fat to create rock-hard ‘fat bergs’, which cause blockages and, potentially, wastewater overflows. If a blockage or overflow happens with your pipe system, you or your landlord will have to fix the blockage. That can cost you a lot of money.

What can you do?

Use reusable cloths to reduce the number of wet wipes you’re using. You can buy these new or second-hand, or cut up some old towels in to smaller squares. Just wash, dry and reuse.

If you must use wet wipes, make sure you dispose of them in the rubbish bin.

It’s estimated that 11 per cent of the rubbish that goes to Hastings’ Henderson Road Transfer Station is textile waste. In New Zealand we’re throwing away over 143,820 tonnes a year, which equates to 3560 tonnes in Hastings and Napier alone!

What can you do to reduce textile waste?

  1. Buy pre-loved clothes rather than new. Take a look at your local ‘op shop’ where there are good finds and bargains to be had. We’ve put together a handy map for you of the different Op Shops around Hastings.
  2. Learn how make small repairs to clothing such as replacing buttons and fixing tears, or find a tailor to make those repairs so your clothes last longer.
  3. Try to buy fewer items.
  4. When you buy an item of clothing try to buy good quality garments that will last longer.
  5. Buying New Zealand-made products will likely have lower manufacturing and transport emissions.
  6. Buy natural fibres if possible. A single clothes wash can release about 700,000 plastic particles from synthetic fibres, with polyester the worst offender. Cotton clothes can be used as rags at the end of their life but most synthetic fabrics have to go to the landfill when they wear out.
  7. Don't throw unwanted clothes away; ask if friends or family want them, or drop them off at a local op shop. If you are donating clothes, make sure they are in good condition otherwise you may just be passing a problem onto the op-shops to deal with.

An estimated 200 million single-use coffee cups are thrown away in NZ every year - that’s more than 40 cups per person!

Using a reusable coffee cup is the best option to keep them out of the landfill. Many of us are misled by the claims that some single-use cups are ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’, however there are very few options for recycling or composting them in New Zealand. Instead the vast majority goes to the landfill where they don’t break down properly, instead producing greenhouse gases. On the off-chance that the cups are collected separately for specialist recycling, this doesn’t change our wasteful habits of using things once before throwing them away.

Check out this article on University of Canterbury article research into single use coffee cups.

Instead of single-use or compostable cups, plates or cutlery, use reusable options. If you must use compostable single-use then make sure you collect it up and add it to your home compost or send it to BioRich – give them a call first to check whether they will accept the type you have.

You can also do your bit by supporting local businesses who are moving away from single-use coffee cups completely, or if you’d like your favourite coffee shop to stop using single use cups let them know!


We are working on an Event Waste Minimisation Guide to assist event planners to minimise waste at their events. Watch this space for the release of this guide.

Waste reduction at work and school

Work places and schools can be some of the biggest creators of waste, but you can help reduce this.

The Plastic Free July website has some really helpful tips on how to tackle waste at work and schools. Check out these tips here.


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