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Waste not, want not activities

The amount of solid waste we produce in our region is increasing. Each house-hold in our region produces about 200,000 tonnes of waste each year. Waste disposal is expensive and can cause environmental problems. Find out how we can all reduce the amount of waste we produce.

Photograph of a Waste Management truck

What is waste?

Take a look at your rubbish bin. What sorts of things are you throwing away? Rubbish (or solid waste) is usually a mixture of many different materials, including:

  • paper
  • plastics, for example, bottles, containers, food wrapping and packaging
  • glass, for example, jars and bottles
  • metal, for example, aluminium cans
  • organic material, such as kitchen scraps and lawn clippings
  • construction and demolition waste.

Check out how much of each we are throwing away in our region.

What do you think would happen if we had to dispose of all our own rubbish in our backyards? Do you think this would change how much waste we produce?

Where our waste goes

Thankfully we don’t have to dispose of our waste in our own backyards. However, our waste does still have to go somewhere. Most of the waste we produce is put into landfills or cleanfills.

The standard of our region’s landfills is now as good or better than any other part of the country. In 1999 there were 13 operating municipal landfills in our region, but only three had proper consents. Over 40 other landfill sites have recently closed as they could not meet modern environmental standards.

We now have only six operating landfills in our region and all have consents. These are located at:

  • Taupo
  • Te Kuiti
  • Tirohia
  • Tokoroa
  • Putaruru – closing in 2007
  • Horotiu.

Most of the landfills are quite small, except for Horotiu, which receives around 90,000 – 100,000 tonnes of waste per year.

Constructing new landfill sites that meet modern environmental standards is expensive. Because of this, the costs of waste disposal are rising. For example, households pay via rates and direct disposal charges. It’s important we all play our part in reducing waste.

What we can do

We can all reduce the amount of waste from our homes or school by following the three ‘R’s:

  1. first reduce waste
  2. then re-use items
  3. then recycle them into something else

Find out more about the three ‘R’s and check out our tips for reducing, re-using and recycling waste.

Try our tips for reducing waste:

  • Re-use your supermarket bags when you go shopping, or better still use cloth bags and boxes.
  • Choose products with the least packaging and re-fill options, at home, school and in the office. Check to see if the packaging is recyclable.
  • Buy in bulk or concentrate (check the use by date).
  • Select loose products rather than pre-packaged at the supermarket.
  • If your favourite item doesn’t come in a recyclable or reusable container write to the manufacturer.
  • Buy products which contain recycled materials.
  • Buy durable products that will last a long time.
  • Investigate how things can be recycled on site, e.g. double-siding paper, ice-cream containers for storing items

Ask your students for their ideas. What else could you do to reduce waste?

Managing waste at your school

What waste management procedures do you have at your school? More schools are becoming involved in careful waste management procedures. A good waste management programme will look at where the waste is coming from and whether this can be reduced. Developing a waste management procedure at your school involves investigating the ethos of your school and determining what commitment there is to making a difference.

Get your students to do a waste audit. What can they find in the school’s rubbish bins? How much of this could be recycled or re-used? Does your school have facilities in place for recycling? Has your school thought of setting up a worm farm to deal with food scraps?

Waste Exchange

Does your school produce waste or surplus materials that could be used by someone else? Are you buying materials that someone else is paying to have sent to a landfill?

The Waste Exchange matches waste generators with waste re-users. The database often has items that are of use to schools particularly if you have a project on like a school production.

From July 2001 to July 2002 over six million litres of waste went through the Waste Exchange programme. Exchanges included:

  • oil and liquids – 4,630 litres
  • pallets – 738
  • material scraps – 157 bags
  • glass – four tonnes
  • timber and joinery – 1638 cubic metres.

Contact the Waste Exchange on 0800 NO THROW.

Find out more

Check out the following for more ways your school can reduce waste:

  • Zero Waste New Zealand
  • Ministry for the Environment (MfE)
  • Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA)
  • New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development (NZBCSD)
  • Waste Exchange