The Waste Minimisation Act was introduced in 2008 and it calls for every territorial local authority to have waste management and minimisation plans. These vary from place to place, so last week I visited Whakatane to see how that town deals with their waste. Like most places in New Zealand their council provides a household waste and recycling kerbside collection which they contract to a large multi-national company. For Whakatane the waste is transported to another centre to end up in landfill and the recycling is trucked to Tauranga to be mechanically sorted and then on-sold.
Recycling and landfilling is only part of the story though.
More waste is diverted through re-use. Inevitably it is community organisations who take up the re-use work. Op-shops like St Vincent de Paul or the Red Cross have been operating for years and Whakatane is no exception. However Whakatane also has CReW – Community Recycling Whakatane a social enterprise that was launched in 2011. They employ a handful of people and provide training and experience for clients of their umbrella organisation social services provider Pou Whakaaro.
CReW’s aims are not just about environmental benefit and improvement. They’re also about sustainable community employment, social equity and enhancing community capacity.
They’re not just a second hand shop. The Pou Whakaaro clients upcycle some of their material while they learn new skills. I was pretty taken with the colourful collection of re-upholstered chairs which are testament to the organisations ability to add value to material that would otherwise end up in landfill.
That adding value helps financially as well. Marcus Baker, CreW’s general manger was really pleased to tell me that the enterprise now sustains itself financially, having initially been set up with the assistance of a grant from the Ministry for the Environment Waste Minimisation fund. And like me he believes that there are more jobs that can be created from diverting material from the waste stream. It does mean however that there needs to be some concession from the multi-national businesses that dominate the waste sector at the moment so that they can relinquish some of their control of our rubbish and recycling. Because that’s where the resources are.
In the meantime, some councils are calling for applications for grants that will help reduce waste. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council have funding available for projects that fit within their regional waste strategy. And just for an idea, community enterprises like CReW can be replicated elsewhere.