As Auckland Council focuses on an ‘aspirational’ target of zero waste to landfill by 2040, figures show that the amount of waste heading to the dump is actually growing substantially, increasing by 40 percent from 2010–2016.
Turning Auckland’s waste problem around will require stiffer measures from Council and central government, including higher charges, and targets to reduce the waste produced by Council CCOs such as Auckland Transport, and the construction industry.
Council is reviewing its Waste Management and Minimisation Plan and recently sought feedback from local boards.
A report presented last month to the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board says that there have been reductions in the volume of residential waste, as well as that produced by Council’s offices. The increase, the report claims, is caused by commercial waste – particularly from construction and demolition, organic waste and plastic. It is proposed that these areas are a focus for the revised plan.
Co-author of the report, waste solutions acting general manager Parul Sood, says Council’s Waste Management and Minimisation Plan, which has been in place since 2012, aimed to reduce what ratepayers put out in their rubbish bags by 30 percent in six years through recycling and user pays rubbish schemes. While Council offices have already met that target, a reduction of only 10 percent has been achieved in domestic waste to date.
She says while waste streams within Council’s control are being reduced, it is frustrating to see the massive increase overall.
However, Ms Sood believes that things can be turned around.
“There is a lot of work to be done as Auckland grows,” she says. “We need to work with the construction sector to set waste reduction plans, which initially will be voluntary, monitor those, and then, if needed, consider regulation.”
She says the updated Waste Management and Minimisation Plan will not initially set waste reduction targets for the work done by CCOs such as Auckland Transport, but those will be set after the plan is adopted by Council.
Council is also hoping to convince central government to substantially increase the Waste Levy that it charges per tonne of waste at landfills. Currently this is $10 per tonne; Council is seeking an increase to $140 per tonne. Government distributes 50 percent of this revenue to Councils, which amounted to $6.1 million for Auckland Council last year. The money is used for waste minimisation.
Ms Sood says that further domestic waste reduction measures are also coming in. The pay-as-you-throw kerbside refuse system, already in place on the Hibiscus Coast, will be extended to Auckland and Manukau where ratepayers currently pay via a targeted rate. On the Coast, wheelie bins will replace rubbish bags “in the next couple of years”. Instead of buying a plastic rubbish bag from the supermarket, residents will purchase a paper tag to be attached to the bin; this system was introduced in Waitakere last month. There will also be food waste collection introduced in urban areas, which includes the Coast.
Ms Sood says that technology could also play a part in future, such as waste to energy schemes and that discussions are underway about ‘producer responsibility’ – the idea of products having a circular lifecycle, and companies that make products taking responsibility for that.
The updated draft Waste Management and Minimisation Plan goes before the Council’s Environment and Community Committee next month, seeking approval to publicly notify the proposed plan.