The waste Nelson throws out in relation to a worker. Photo: Charles Anderson

Stemming our wasteful ways

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The region’s wasteful ways have been laid bare as it is revealed that the average person contributes almost 600kg a year to landfill.

The Nelson Tasman Joint Waste Minimisation plan is now in the hands of both councils in the region and aims to set the region on a better course with how its businesses and residents deal with their waste.

The latest regional waste assessment showed that each year about 62,000 tonnes of waste is sent to landfill in the Nelson Tasman region. Total waste to landfill peaked in 2008/09 at 68,700 tonnes and since then has varied between 61,400 and 66,600 tonnes per year.

That equates to a total waste to landfill per capita of 598kg per person.

The region has two landfills – one in York Valley and one in Eves Valley. The capacity of York Valley will be full in 12 years and Eaves Valley in 20. After that it is not clear what the plan is.

While the amount going to landfill has decreased very slightly, in that same time recycling has increased – meaning we are throwing away just as much.

Tasman District Council’s David Stephenson, who is leading the regional plan, says that people have to be aware that not all plastics that are recycled find themselves into the sustainability cycle.

“Buying something and throwing it into recycling bin is not the best you can do. Not buying or wasting is a much better outcome.”

While glass, tin and aluminium cans along with milk and soft drink bottles can be recycled in New Zealand, pretty much everything else struggles to find an international market.

All the region’s recycling comes to a Resource Recovery Station on Fittal St. From there, the most recent material for international export has gone to Indonesia, since China stopped accepting the world’s waste.

But there no centralised recording system to show how other regions are doing across the country.

“How much we recycle is only part of the story,” says David. “The real gain is in avoided waste, which is difficult to measure.”

The big contributor is commercial businesses which are responsible for 65 per cent of landfill waste.

Dave says some people get overwhelmed thinking about the scale of the problem.

“You shouldn’t get cut up thinking you have to do everything. Even something small makes a difference.”

He says little things like cleaning your household plastic before recycling is really important.

“At somewhere along the chain if the plastic is dirty it will either need to be cleaned or thrown out. It’s much easier to clean it in your sink than expect someone else will do it for you.”

If there is any hint of contamination on plastic, it makes it very hard to recycle.
However, the better plan is not buying plastic at all.

“It makes me think of when I’m buying things. I think ‘do I really need this’ or is there a way of getting this without getting plastic.”

The regional plan will be deliberated on next month.