Posted by Rebecca Hastie on Jul 27, 2017
Steve Clarke has been the Waste Minimisation Officer for Clutha District Council for the past 8 months. His role is to examine any initiatives to reduce, reuse and recycle. Protecting the environment and curbing climate change are essential to the theme for the 2017-2018 Rotary year "Rotary: Making a Difference".
Thanks Steve for explaining where our waste in Clutha ends up and for tips to be more mindful of how much we are consuming and wasting.
- 9500 tonnes of waste goes to Mount Cooee landfill in a year.
- 575kg of waste is produced per household per year.
- Only 650 tonnes is diverted by being collected out of yellow wheelie bins and recycled.
- 110kg of waste is diverted per household (not all houses in Clutha District have access to recycling services yet).
Recyclable materials from Clutha are transferred to Dunedin but not all of it is used for reasons such as contamination. Plastics, paper and card are each baled up and put into containers for transport to wherever the material can be recycled.
In New Zealand, paper and card can only be processed in the North Island at only two pulp and paper mills, at Kinleith and at Penrose. Paper and card from the South Island is shipped overseas due to the high cost of transport over Cook Strait. There are favourable rates to export so that containers from overseas are not returning empty.
  • Milk bottles are cut and flaked then recycled into resin for pipe, irrigation, cables and other products.
  • PET (from water bottles and soft drink bottles) is shipped overseas to produce clothing, sleeping bag filling and carpet.
  • Mixed plastic is also exported.
  • Non-rigid plastics (can be scrunched in your hand) currently cannot be recycled in Clutha District but recycling bins are being introduced all over the country (see for more information)
Aluminium and clean tin foil is used to produce car parts, wire and fencing.
Green/Organic Waste
Green waste collection is not currently offered in Clutha District as there wouldn't be a large enough amount to be processed to justify the cost of the machinery. Green waste is used for layering at the landfill so methane and CO2 produced by the layers of rubbish is filtered by the organic matter.
Glass is inert, it has no chemical impact on the environment, however it is unsightly and can be dangerous.
Glass collection is also not currently offered in Clutha District due to the cost of investment in infrastructure. It is a challenge due to the area of our large district, it could take trucks two weeks to collect. It cannot be compacted and needs to be colour sorted by hand. Glass collection would cost $50 per household which is difficult to make fair for households that dispose of a few glass jars a year compared with one who disposes of dozens of glass bottles every week. In Clutha 8 tonnes of glass is dumped per week and it makes up 13% of the total weight of waste. Glass for recycling is accepted at Mount Cooee landfill, it must be separate from other recycling. Elsewhere in Clutha District, a process for glass crushing is being considered but options for disposal are difficult, the only glass recycling plant in New Zealand is in Auckland. 
In reducing overall waste to landfill, Clutha is performing better than the NZ average but still a long way from Christchurch and other places with services such as glass and green waste collection.
The ideal is more reducing and reusing, thus decreasing the need to process recycling.
Container Deposit Legislation would implement a system to increase reuse of products but is not currently in place in New Zealand. Consider approaching local councillors about establishing a scheme.
Another system to consider pressing for change to reduce production of materials is the Glass Packaging Forum. Companies that require glass packaging for their products make a voluntary contribution as a member to the forum which aims to ensure that packaging is recyclable. However this is jumping to the third level of waste management, ideally companies would aim to reduce the amount of product that needs to be recycled. The Glass Packaging Forum website is
The most significant opportunity to reduce waste is to change behaviour and "Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change." In the early stages of behaviour change, people may not be aware of any problems. Education is required to encourage people to do the right thing without punishment, the change should be positively reinforced and tools such as equipment for compost could be provided. For the change to be maintained we need to keep the message getting across.
It is in everyone's interest to be wise about waste management, both for our environment and financially. When products are disposed of correctly, processing costs can be kept down.
Remember in Clutha yellow recycling bins:
  • no glass
  • no food or garden waste
  • people hand sort out contaminants, there is a lot of human effort in the process and we need to protect those employees
  • no non-rigid plastics, things like plastic bags and wrappers jam up machines in the sorting process
To reduce plastic bags going to waste, consider not using bin liners. Any of the rubbish that would form liquid in your bin should go into compost, everything else should be dry waste which doesn't require a bin liner.
Despite the transport and processing efforts it is still better to recycle paper and card than to burn it.
CDC have lots of tips, guides and workshops for reducing waste:
Recycling in NZ and identification symbols of different plastics: