Zero Green Waste?

The GDC has achieved excellent results in reducing the waste stream over the last 10 years. Last year 2,779 tonnes of recyclables were collected from the Gisborne kerbside compared to 3,174 tonnes of rubbish. This is much higher than most other cities and the impressive result has been built around the recycling of household dry waste (paper, bottles, plastics, cans) and has been well supported by residents who fill their bins to overflowing every week.

The results of this are three-fold: (1) less waste being sent to landfill; (2) a reduction in rubbish being accumulated around houses and sections; and (3) a reduction in costs to the rate-payers. There is a small return on the credit side of the ledger due to the sale of the material collected, but the big savings is in the reduced landfill costs.

GDC did very well in convincing the ratepayers to pay a ‘recycling rate’ because recycling contractors could not run a profitable business based on cash returns solely from the recycled materials. In other cities around New Zealand where this subsidy does not exist they do not have the same results as GDC. Because of this initiative less dry waste is placed in the plastic rubbish bags meaning both less landfill and less disposal costs for the ratepayer.

Approximately 37% of material going to landfill in Gisborne is green waste – that’s over 1,000 tonnes every year!

Now that we are getting on top of dry waste it is perhaps time to turn our thoughts to more appropriate ways of dealing with green-waste. In the main this consists of thousands of tonnes of lawn clippings plus weeds and hedging. Whist some householders have been composting, even those households sometimes have difficulty coping with the quantities of grass clippings especially in the spring and summer months. We do have a commercial operator that takes green waste, however the waste has to be transported a fair way out of town and more often than not it is easier for many people to ‘pile it up at the back of the section’ than have the expense of hiring a trailer and running the car to the collection site.

Maybe GDC could begin to discuss a scheme where green waste is ‘stockpiled’ in the suburbs to be collected once a month. Large steel containers or trailers could be strategically located in such places as road-end reserves, where people could have ready access to them.

Initially there could be downsides to such a scheme as people may take the opportunity to throw anything into the bins including current black household bags. There may also be the possibility of increased fly nuisance especially if the containers were not emptied regularly. An alternative would be to have a ‘green collection’ similar to the dry-waste collection that is held in the city annually. Similar to dry waste recycling there could provide an economic return as the green waste in converted to valuable compost for community gardens, commercial application and household flowerbeds and vegetable patches.

Just imagine what it would be like to live in a community where recycling was taken that one step further. The banks of our rivers, streams and public reserves would no longer be piled with fly and rat infested stinking rotting green waste.

Either way we need to work towards developing a programme that suits GDC, householders and ratepayers alike. This may seem like a ‘pie in the sky’ concept, but remember that our current dry waste recycling was equally revolutionary when it was first mooted in the early 1990s.

For those of us who don’t compost already, Autumn is a great time to start. I would encourage you to contact GDC who have a list of ‘master composters’ willing and able to advise on how to set up an effective composting system at home or between a group of homes.

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