Auckland City Council are running adverts in the local papers offering people the choice of bins or bags. Islanders will recall that this has always been a ‘feature’ of the TPI contract. Everytime we complained about the drop in waste recycling quality, or comingling, or Mount Visy etc. They would just say – well we accommodated the views of the island by offering bins or bags.
Now we have a chance to make our voices heard.
If less than 10% of the islanders take up the offer of wheelie bins then there will be no wheelies.
This is crucial – wheelie bins are a fundamental part of the TPI plan. All recycling has to go to the MRP at Visy – even though this type of processing plant is being seen to be increasingly ineffective. It is important because once the city is locked into trucks and bins there is no easy way back out to a more effective form of recycling. This is what we call ‘vendor lock in’.
You can be sure that once wheelies are on the island – the next tender will not offer any alternatives as so much investment has been made in the equipment. No other waste provider would be able to complete with TPI as they would not have the equipment to do so. TPI thus gain a monopoly over the city either squeezing out or simply buying out smaller waste management companies.
Recyclables taken to the Transfer station and sorted by hand do not go to Visy. Instead they go direct to merchants as before. This is what we want. plastics and glass will actually be recycled into new plastics and glass instead of downcycled into aggregate and dirty fuels, or sent to China – at great transport costs.
So what will happen to our kerbside recyclables? If we continue to carefully sort and bag separately our recyclables TPI have a problem – they cannot send the material to Visy because the automated system cannot cope with closed bags. So they will have to consider hand sorting or the waste will go to landfill. We will be watching TPI to see if this is what happens
So should we accept bins or bags?
There are two schools of thought here as to the best approach for the island:
1. That some people do have bins say 15% while the rest do not. This causes TPI to have to provide both services and appropriate trucks at extra cost to themselves, This would be particularly ironic if the bins were placed with the most inaccessible households. However they will use this wedge to push bins onto everyone as time goes by.
2. That we push hard for everyone to say no to wheelies. By keeping below the 10% mark we keep them completely off the island.
While the former might make us feel good by hurting TPI. At the end of the day we want what is best for the environment. We started this fight on the underlying issues of wheelies and perhaps should finish it.
When thinking about this there are some important points to remember.
1. Wheelies are difficult for Waiheke territory, – the steep driveways, narrow roads, absent households etc.
2. Wheelies enforce co-mingling of recyclables, resulting in a lower value recycled product at the end of the day. For example paper contaminated with broken glass cannot be recycled. Mixed coloured glass cannot be recycled as glass instead being useful only for aggregate.
This isn’t just a cost issue – energy is wasted at each point where the quality of the material becomes degraded.
3. Wheelies are large – the extra capacity has been shown to encourage more stuff to be thrown away.
4. Wheelies are part of the commercialisation and corporatisation of waste, although it is better to have some sort of recycling than none, it has been turned into a business where by companies get paid for the amount of waste they manage rather than being paid to minimise waste before it even gets to the bin.
5. If we can achieve this goal we will act as an example for other communities that think the same way.
Taking these points together we would suggest that the island continues to reject any suggestion of wheelie bins and aims for a zero take up.
So when the council send you a letter asking whether you want bags or bins
… ignore the letter and recycle it.
for more information see this report from WRAP – the waste resources action program on choosing the right recycling collections system.pdf