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:
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!
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.
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.
Say no to single-use or wasteful things
Only buy what you really need
Sell, donate or keep using things until they are broken
Keep things in use by fixing them.
Find new ways to use things.
Turn organic waste in to nutrient-rich soil.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Plastic and cans
Plastics stamped with a 1, 2 or 5 are sorted from the cans in a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), in Kopu (near Thames) or Masterton.
Paper and cardboard
Our paper and cardboard goes straight from kerbside to local company Hawk Packaging who turn it into fruit trays.
Our glass goes to Visy Auckland.
What we don’t upcycle, recycle or reuse goes to the landfill.
Rubbish does not just disappear; it is either upcycled or recycled, or goes into a hole in the ground – albeit a highly engineered hole, designed to protect the environment as much as possible.
That is the reason for the emphasis on upcycling and recycling – to keep as much as possible out of the landfill for two very good reasons:
Do you know that the average New Zealand family throws away the equivalent of three full trolleys’ of food every year?
We can avoid throwing away this amount of food by not creating the waste in the first place.
Love Food Hate Waste is a useful website that gives us information on what kind of food we are wasting, why we are wasting it, and how we can avoid wasting it – it includes some awesome recipes for leftovers and parts of food that many of us would not normally eat.
The website also has a handy A-Z food storage guide that will help you make your food last as long as possible.
These are the top 10 foods Kiwis throw out every year:
|Top 10 avoidable food types||Tonnes||National cost|
|3, Oranges and mandarins||6,302||$20,516,361|
The first rule of thumb in the kitchen is ‘buy what you need and eat what you buy’.
According to New Zealand waste and resource recovery organisation WasteMinz’ Love Food Hate Waste bin audit, the average Kiwi family throws away three shopping trolleys of edible food a year – not including things like banana peels, egg shells and meat bones.
So, what to do when we have miscalculated and have food that does have to be thrown out, and with all the extra bits such as the egg shells, banana peels, cooking oil and meat off-cuts.
Firstly, keep an eye on the fridge so you use everything before it goes ‘off’. Most leftovers can be ‘upcycled’ into something yummy. If you can’t think what to do with your leftovers, check out Love Food Hate Waste’s recipe section.
If food has not been eaten but is still able to be frozen for later use, bag it up, label and date it clearly, and freeze it. Don’t forget to use it!
Save vegetable scraps and leftovers into a bag in the freezer to make into stock when you have enough (find a stock recipe on-line); the same with the bones, off-cuts and leftovers of beef, poultry, lamb and seafood (in sperate bags).
If you have extra food in the garden that can’t be frozen, offer it to the neighbours. They will appreciate it and you will have kept it out of the landfill.
If it is too far gone, then the options are compost it or bin it; with bin it being the last resort. Like green waste, food scraps contribute to the mass of ‘rubbish soup’ buried under ground at the landfill, producing leachate and methane gas.
In Hawke’s Bay the acknowledged composting experts are the volunteers at Sustainable HB. The team runs composting workshops, can answer questions on the different processes, and can give you advice on the best system(s) for your home.
Want to learn more about composting?
We’ve run some beginner’s workshops before and are collecting interest in running more in the future.
The workshops are a beginner’s guide on how to use a traditional compost bin, a worm farm and the Bokashi bucket system to ferment food waste. They are designed to give you enough information to find the right system for you and your whānau and get started at home.
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..
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