The Auckland Waste Management and Minimisation Plan – a step too near.

The new Auckland Draft Waste Management and Minimisation Plan (WMMP).  A thing we can all be proud of. Congratulations Len and the team.  There are provisions there to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill by 30% by 2018,  There will be a closer relationship between the amount of waste you produce and how much you have to pay; and an organic collection will take food and green waste out of the landfill for composting or digesting.

The council are asking us for our thoughts on this matter, they have even produced this sweet consultation document printed on nice wholemeal paper, that asks us some questions.  Its almost as if we have a choice, or a chance to influence the process.

You can read the documents and download submission forms here: http://tinyurl.com/awmmp and you can also pick up a summary at the Waiheke Resources Trust office in Oneroa.

The headlines are:

  • Disposer pays for household refuse, but not recyclables, or organic waste.
  • Everyone gets wheelie bins which count how often they are used (exceptions for Gulf Islands – Waiheke gets both bins and bags)
  • Recyclables are still co-mingled – broken glass and paper together.
  • A weekly organic collection (green and food waste)
  • and some changes to the inorganic collection.

The Zero Waste website http://www.zerowaste.co.nz/whats-nz-doing/get-involved-auckland-councils-proposed-waste/
Will give you a good run down of the proposals and what is good and bad about each of them.

Please read that link as I am not going to use this blog to go over what is wrong with wheelie bins and co-mingling again. I want to look at just how non-aspirational this plan actually is.

Sadly although the plan is a step forward from the current state for most suburbs It is really flawed, its just not that obvious at first because they get to ask the questions of you – instead of the other way around. Its basically a big con – and to see that all you have to do is follow the money.

The headline aspiration is Zero Waste, That sounds brilliant, who could be against producing no waste?  But wait, what do they actually mean by zero waste – not much it seems, they mean that they want to reduce the proportion of household waste collected that goes to landfill by 30% by 2018.  So leaving aside for the moment the fact that household waste is only 17% of the total amount of stuff thrown away.  All we are talking about is burying a bit less and recycling a bit more.
As far as I can tell – if the council achieves all its aims it still won’t achieve the level of quality recycling found on Waiheke when we had CleanStream.

Still every bit counts doesn’t it? The less that goes to landfill the more that gets recycled – and recycling is good yes?

Well no.

Lets step back a moment and get the bigger picture.  What really matters is the total amount of energy used and the total amount of pollution produced in the whole process.  And perhaps the total amount of money spent in the process – who pays and who profits.

Lets take this plastic water bottle.
The plastic is made from polyethelene – a petrochemical – i.e Oil.  To make it required energy – i.e more oil, to ship it to the factory from china – oil, to truck it to the supermarket – oil and to get it home – more oil.  That’s a lot of oil to get something that falls on my roof and then comes straight out of my tap.  So when I buy it I pay, I pay an amount that represents the whole oil fuelled economy up to the supermarket – plus a few cents extra for the water inside.

So maybe I refill it a couple of times, before throwing it away, and lets say I put it in my recycle bin.  A truck comes and picks it up (oil), ships it to south Auckland (oil)  where it is sorted by machines (more oil) and then away to another plant (probably in China – a whole ton of oil) where it can be melted down and made into another plastic bottle (oil) or is perhaps just burnt to run the plant (Carbon emissions).   Then off it goes back around the loop.  That’s if the plastic gets made into another bottle,  More likely each trip around the loop the plastic is down-cycled, turned into something lower grade – like black bin bags, or fuel for incinerators.  Eventually after delivering just a few drinks of water that plastic bottle has to end up somewhere – floating in the ocean, buried in landfill – maybe in someone else’s country, or burnt up, releasing its carbon into the atmosphere along with all the carbon from all the processes and trips encountered during its lifetime.

Lets hammer that point home.  Everything that leaves your hand and hits that bin represents energy expended in its creation, and energy to expend in its disposal – one way or another that object is going to end up as some form of pollution.

Who gets to pay for all this – you and I do – after all we are the only ones in the loop shelling out any money.  And our children will too – because there will be a whole lot of hidden environmental costs that they will have to clean up too.

All recycling takes energy – its better than not recycling only because in theory it costs less energy to re-use hydrocarbons, steel, aluminium etc than to extract it out of the ground in the first place.  And because dumping stuff in holes in the ground pollutes water supplies and uses up valuable holes in the ground.

Really you need to think about not creating the waste in the first place.   Remember the mantra – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? – its that way around for a reason.
Clearly I can replace that plastic water bottle with an aluminium flask that I could probably use for the rest of my life. Or I could just drink my water in a ceramic cup out of the tap.

The WMMP is constructed to only let you think about waste minimisation at the disposal stage. Clearly a serious plan would think about waste minimisation at the creation stage.

Another example – organic waste.
Who hasn’t had a meal, stuffed the left overs in the fridge and forgotten about them until too late, Who hasn’t had yogurts go out of date, or bananas go rotten.  We all have occasions where food gets thrown away.  Even enviro greenies growing their own garden veges have clippings, leaves, cores, skins etc that can’t be eaten.
If this stuff ends up in your everyday refuse bag – and then goes to the landfill it will biodegrade wonderfully – producing in the process quite a lot of methane gas and associated yucky gloop.  Now while there are some landfills that catch that gas and use it for electricity – ( I helped build one once). For the most part it just seeps out – the gas into the atmosphere, the gloop into the water.   Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, so along with those cow farts your rotten banana skin is doing its little bit for climate change. (although most of that took place in getting it to you in the first place).

So it is great that in the plan the council will provide you with a small bin you can use for your food and green waste, and will collect it weekly so it doesn’t get too smelly.  After that they will drive it all somewhere (oil again) and, compost it, then drive it to a garden shop (oil)  where you can buy it back again.  They might not even compost it – instead using it as fuel for a small energy plant – great eh, slightly less oil gets used and the carbon ends up in the atmosphere anyway.

Or you could just put it in a compost bin in your garden – save all that oil and get your own compost.   Or if you don’t have space or quite enough waste to keep a compost heap going you could use Bokashi – basically a pickle barrel that does a similar job.

So again the solution offered is to collect, and dispose, out of site out of mind,  Instead of teaching people how to create less organic waste in the first place, and how to manage it themselves.

Researchers have found that if you can’t see how much waste you are producing then it is easier for you to produce more.  Or put the other way around – when people are asked to weigh the amount of food waste they produce they then start to produce less, sometimes a lot less.

You see – This is not really about waste minimisation at all – its about money,  who gets to make some money out of the whole system and how can they maximise their profit. That lovely consultancy document is actually someones business plan.

Making all the bins alike, using bins rather than bags, using complex RFID counters, co-mingling, routing all recycling through a central processing plant.  These are all steps that allow a company to start to build a monopoly business in waste management.   They all make it harder for competition to enter the market.

That monopoly gets paid for the amount of waste that it processes, It gets paid to collect stuff, paid to move stuff, paid to sort stuff and then gets to sell the stuff as well.  The only person who is paying in this loop is you the householder. either directly or through the amount the taxes and rates pays on your behalf.

Such a company’s fundamental incentive therefore is to have as much stuff going around that loop as possible.  That’s why the bins are so big – It hides just how much stuff you are throwing away.  It makes it possible for you to feel good about recycling while making them a fat profit, and increasing the GDP of the country.  Now really I’ve no problem with someone making a profit for performing a good service – My issue is when what makes good business sense to them – makes bad sense to the environment.

At the end of the day – everything that you throw away represents energy expended and at some point in the future – water pollution and greenhouse gases.  So unless the plan gives a strong incentive for EVERYONE involved to reduce the TOTAL amount of waste in circulation we are actually going to get the opposite effect.  Yes there might be a reduction in landfill – but there will be an increase in energy used and pollution generated.

Any guess what – when oil doubles or triples in price – this business model is going to go bust anyway. That whole lot of driving stuff around just won’t make sense.

A real plan would move from householder pays to producer pays  – where the companies that put all this stuff together in the first place – the excess packaging, the unnecessary bags, bottles, cans, uneaten, inedible food etc.

A real plan would reward me more – for using less stuff.  For buying a big bag of beans and learning to cook instead of canned baked beans.  For learning how to not have to throw food away.  For learning how to do my own compost and grow my own tomatoes.

A real plan would allow local communities to create local solutions, rewarded for overall gains in sustainability, energy and pollution reduction.  It would encourage local boards to establish by-laws restricting disposable bottles, or requiring deposit returnable bottles.

So Auckland Planners – I’m giving you a C+ for a first effort. Now go back and work out what it would take to get an A.

2011 – Nikki Kaye

It has been a pretty tough year for New Zealand with the Canterbury Earthquake and the Pike River mine tragedy, some families have also really struggled with challenging economic times. At this time I hope we can spare a moment to think of those families but also to be proud of the many New Zealanders that have stepped up to help them.

My focus in 2011 is to continue to help and serve the hundreds of Waiheke constituents that contact me each year for personal help or to change government policy. I hope to also deliver on some more of the local projects that I care about including improving Auckland Council’s waste policy.

Recently I launched a campaign called “ Thrash the Trash – A Smarter Cleaner Auckland”. I feel passionately that Auckland can do better in the area of waste and I know that Waiheke can play a big role in getting Auckland Council to make changes to waste policy.

The current situation whereby rubbish flows freely from storm water drains into the Hauraki Gulf is not acceptable. It’s not conducive to a healthy harbour and it has a lasting impact on the environment. The people who call the Gulf and its surrounding islands, such as Waiheke, home, deserve better.

The sheer volume of waste being produced by our city has become a major environmental threat to our quality of life. The greater Auckland region in 2008 produced nearly 1.4 million tonnes of waste, that’s the equivalent of a rubbish mountain the size of Eden Park stacked about as high as the Sky Tower.

A large fraction of Auckland’s waste is organic and there are estimates this could be turned into about 100,000 tonnes of valuable compost.  Using an innovative approach, other valuable resources we currently discard could be used by local businesses to extract value.

The new Auckland Council has signalled its concerns on this issue and I look forward to helping to develop policies that will reduce the city’s waste. I have spoken to the Minister for the Environment about opportunities to support initiatives that result from this campaign via the Waste Minimisation Fund.

One of the new benefits of the new Auckland Council is that we finally have a single regional entity with the rating base and power to be able to address environmental issues to make our city a better place for all.

The campaign will focus on six objectives:

1.    Investigate possible financial incentives to reduce waste in Auckland

2.    Improve the management of organic waste in Auckland

3.    Explore initiatives to reduce plastic at Auckland landfills

4.    Investigate initiatives to reduce rubbish flowing from storm water drains into the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park

5.    Investigate support for businesses involved in waste innovation

6.    Identify any other initiatives to clean up Auckland.

The purpose of the campaign is to mobilise Aucklanders who care about having a cleaner city and give them the chance to contribute their ideas to create better central and local government processes to deal with waste. I have written to the Mayor of Auckland to offer my support to work together on waste policies.

Those who want to help the campaign, please go to Thrash the Trash’s community page on www.facebook.com and get involved.

On Waiheke I am constantly being told of stories whereby the island community rallies around people in need, I want to personally thank all those islanders that give so much to the community. I hope everybody on the island has a relaxing holiday season and a safe and happy New Year.

Best wishes for a relaxing holiday season and a safe and happy New Year.

Nikki Kaye
MP for Auckland Central
Address for mail: Parliament Buildings, Wellington
Ph: 04 817 8227
www.nikkikaye.co.nz


Waiheke vs Auckland City Council – legal update.

Waiheke vs Auckland City Council  – legal update.

At the public meeting in Surfdale on June 22nd 2009 the people of Waiheke agreed that the Waiheke Does it Better campaign should continue activities on a number of fronts – one of which was to be an investigation into the possibility of legal action. A fund was set up to help pursue that action.

 

What has happened since then 

Over the past two months Pita Rikys and others have worked with local solicitor Matthew Tetley-Jones on a potential action for judicial review.  This work has necessarily taken place out of the limelight. The legal team discussed the issues informally with a number of notable barristers.  An Auckland-based barrister who lives on the island, Kevin Glover, recently gave a formal opinion to the group on the prospects for such a claim and other matters relating to the case.  

 

As a result of all this the steering group of the campaign have decided that a claim for judicial review would not be cost effective in the circumstances.

 

Why are we not taking the case 

I hope here to try to summarise the issues and our reasoning. Anyone wishing further details can get in touch with the legal group to review the documents.

 

In short the problem is that although it is clear (to us at least) that ACC acted badly – (either through incompetence or ill will) this does not automatically make the decision void.

 

Local authorities are given broad powers to determine decision making processes under the Local Government Act. The Act allows the council to make a decision which is inconsistent with an existing policy – providing they do so deliberately.  The council can justify their decision on the basis of unification of waste services and cost reductions. In effect the council is allowed to ignore environmental concerns based on the law as it stands 

 

They can also claim that the the decision was made in full knowledge of the errors of fact and process – as we had helpfully pointed them out, and therefore the contract with TPI stands as the full councils final decision. 

 

Even if we could succeed in convincing a High Court judge that the decision was unlawful, it would be extremely unlikely to get the contract with TPI overturned and/or have Clean Stream re-instated.  The more likely outcome, on a best case scenario, would be a declaration that the Council did not act properly, but even this might not come until long after the council had been replaced.

 

Our case does have public interest, natural justice and the fine detail of the law on its side. However it is difficult to prove and the likely end results may not be worth the time and potentially large sums of money involved both in taking the case and the exposure to paying the council’s costs if we do not succeed.  

About the fighting fund

We raised over $4000 specifically to support the legal action.  Of this $1000 was spent on the formal opinion. This represents a huge saving on what would normally have needed to be spent to get to this information. The fund managers will be in touch with donors to check that they are happy with this expense and to return the remaining funds. If you were an anonymous donor please get in touch.    

What next for the campaign

Although this is a disappointment it is not the end of the story. This was just one strand of our activities and the others all continue.

 

Perhaps the most immediate effect of the whole affair was the impact the story had on the Auckland Governance select committee.  The committee came to the island to hear a full day of personal presentation and the waste issue came up again and again not just as a complaint about the malevoleance and ineptitude of ACC but also as an illustration of the danger of an even larger and more detatched super city.  The waste issue really hammered home the need for a large amount of local autonomy for Waiheke.  So we are now watching out for the revised Bill with interest.

 

The Charter group is meeting with the community board and TPI this week to talk about how waste is to be managed on the island. I’ll send out an update after that meeting.

 

The Direct Action group is mainly focussed now on a No Wheelies campaign.  The key goal here is to get a resounding NO THANKS response to the Council’ ‘bags or bins’ letter to ratepayers. Grab a No Wheelies sticker before they all sell out – they will be valuable one day – does anyone have a complete set of No Nukes, No GM, stickers ?

Please continue to talk to friends, write to the papers etc about why big bins mean more rubbish. The goal is that less than 10% take up that means TPI have to find another (better) way.

 

The Waste Resource Trust and Clean Stream Waiheke Ltd are still active – Junk to Funk is coming soon. More details soon.

 

Andrew

 

Bins or Bags

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

 

 

Wednesday July 1st is Open day at the Transfer station.

To All Waiheke islanders and Friends. 

Wednesday July 1st is Open day at the Transfer station.

 

Please come along at 6:00 am or any time soon after to meet and greet TransPacific as they move onto the island to replace Clean Stream as our waste collectors.  

 

There will be national media present. Radio, TV and Press. We would like a wide range of diverse people to turn up to show the strength of feeling about this change, and how the whole island is represented. 

 

This will be a non violent protest. We will remain calm and well behaved but will show our feelings honestly and authentically.  The message is that this change has been forced upon us against the constantly expressed will of the community. We are unhappy with the way this has been done by the City Council but are focussed on the bigger picture of building a sustainable Waiheke.

 

Please bring a bag of recyclable rubbish along to deliver to TPI for recycling and be prepared to ask whether they will be achieving the same standard of service as Clean Stream.

 

You can dress in junk-2-funk costumes, suits, or everyday clothes. be yourself.  Bring banners or ribbons showing your name and asking relevant questions of Auckland City Council and TPI. some ideas below.  

 

Bring warm clothes, a thermos, chairs, knitting etc. be prepared to stay as long as you can. There will be representatives of the island there all day – at least until 5pm.  

 

The weather forecast looks good.  Lets aim for it to be the the best positive public protest/event of the year in the country!

 

A message to TPI. 

 

For the last ten years Waiheke islanders have enjoyed one of highest quality recycling systems in the country. Clean Stream achieved a high diversion rate, strong community engagement and education and great innovation. Can you do the same ?

 

The community does not want to go backwards in waste management and the standards and values already established should be maintained.

 

Please understand our commitment to waste reduction, genuine recycling and maximal reuse. 

 

We want you to:

 

1.  Not fall below the current diversion rate of 43% of waste, and provide us with plans to move to zero waste to landfill by 2015.

2.  Commit to transparency and safety for the whole community.

3   Participate in informed and respectful dialog about our waste management aspirations.

3.  Continue with community engagement to develop zero waste strategies.

4.  Provide genuine mechanisms to update and report on progress.

5.  Continue to deliver and enhance the recycling shop and demo yard as a resource for the whole community.

6.  Continue to provide cardboard and mulch for community gardens

7.  Continue to support zero waste events including Junk 2 Funk.

8.  Not waste fuel and our organic resources by moving greenwaste off of the island.

9.  Not waste fuel and get a good price for our recyclables by sorting waste on the island.

OneWaiheke News Update – 25 June 2009

The Waiheke Community showed up in droves last Sunday to support the work of
Waiheke Does It Better, and throw their weight behind the ongoing campaign
to keep Waiheke’s waste resources in local hands. There were well over 200
people present!

The atmosphere was far from a feeling of being beaten and much more an
excitement about the next stage.

It’s a very exciting and challenging time to live on the island. May we as a
community, and may environmental and social justice prevail. All power to
the people of Waiheke!

The meeting identified 7 key action areas and formed working groups around
these topics. New people stepped up to help coordinate the groups.

Mailing lists have been set up to support the work of each group and we will
put together some web pages for status information as well.

The groups and their coordinators are:

Legal
Pita Rikys, To follow up on legal action options
Unesco
Colin Beardon, to research the option of becoming a UNESCO Reserve
Democracy
James Samuel, To work on ways to build an island wide mandate.
Non Violent Direct Action
Rien Achtenberg, To effect change through publicity and peaceful direct action
Charter
John Stansfield, To set rules for TPI and bring them to true Waihekedom.
Media & Communications
Brent Simpson, and Andrew Watkins, To enable group collaboration, and tell the story in print, online, audio, video etc.
Fundraising
Denise Roche, and Dorte Wray, To run events and activities to raise funds for publicity, direct action support, and legal action.

What should I do now?

To stay informed on active issues on Waiheke such as the Super City, Waste Management, Developments etc. follow the OneWaihekeNews mailing list. This is a low volume list used to make
announcements about what is going on. You can sign up to receive the news and announcements by
visiting http://onewaiheke.onlinegroups.net/groups/

On the same page you can send requests to join any of the action groups above. Each group has its own mailing list which will cut down irrelevant traffic for most people.

One group OneWaihekeAll is used for general discussions, join this to get a
feel for what is going on.

Specific Requests

Rein needs some helpers for his Direct Action work;

1. A data entry person who can do an Excel spreadsheet, or show Judith how to do it.
2. People to paint banners
please join the direct action mail list.

Media group would like some people with journalistic skills. If you have ever put together a press release, or simply written an office report then you would be welcome. So much has happened over the last few months and the
story is very spread around. We want to get a good timeline together and create a resource pack that will bring new people up to speed quickly. For example if we get an MP to ask questions in Parliament then they will need
to be accurately briefed.

Not everyone is on the web or email. We would like this process to be as inclusive as possible so ideas please on widening the reach of the group.

Blue Skies, Clean Streams – Andrew