Environment Waikato Environment Committee Chair Lois Livingston is disappointed at the mixed efforts from District Councils to implement their waste management plans.
Last year the Region’s 12 councils were surveyed to find out what information was available on waste generation and disposal and look at current opportunities. Of the 11 which responded, all had a waste management plan setting out how they would reduce quantities of waste generated in their areas, although nearly half were drafts or under review. Only one had a management plan covering liquid and solid wastes, and only two had a zero waste philosophy.
In a report to this month’s Environment Committee, Policy programme manager Robert Brodnax said that effective actions to achieve waste reduction could be expensive and required local authorities to work together.
For that reason, Environment Waikato will be putting more effort into helping find ways for city and district councils to work together, identifying opportunities for regional action to reduce waste. Environment Waikato also would be working in partnership with various community groups already working on waste and helping them to achieve their goals and the goals in the National Waste Management Strategy being prepared by central government.
Surveys showed that each person in the Waikato generated between 500 and 600 kg of solid waste per annum. Much of it could be recycled or reused, generating jobs and conserving resources.
Mr Brodnax said all of the Councils provided some sort of recycling service and most planned to increase this in the future. Half had some way of diverting green waste - which makes up nearly 40 percent of the rubbish dumped - from landfills. A large number were committed to education programmes promoting waste minimisation and recycling and reducing landfill disposal.
One of the major problems facing waste managers was that not enough was known about the wastes generated, which was hampering planning and co-ordinating of future waste minimisation programmes, he said.
In a report to the Committee on the economics of waste minimisation, environmental economist Matt Hickman said most waste was landfilled and due to the relatively low cost of disposal, waste minimisation practices were not encouraged. There was a lack of information about practices and whether the public was willing to participate more widely.
Cr Livingston said she hoped the new government strategy would give a stronger steer to local government to make real changes to the way they manage their waste.
“We know through surveying the people of our Region that waste is the second most important environmental issue after water quality, and we also know that people will make an effort to dispose of their waste more efficiently if they are given a helping hand to do so.
“Hamiltonians have waited for years to get their kerbside recycling back. I feel there needs to be a regionally co-ordinated approach, facilitated by Environment Waikato, providing education and information on what is possible and the ways in which reduce, recycle, reuse can become cost effective and environmentally sustainable.
“We must all work towards zero waste and shift the situation of landfilling being the cheapest option to one that is just too expensive to sustain. Waste needs to be seen as a resource, Landfills are just a waste of waste.”
A draft strategy on waste minimisation for the Region will be presented to April’s Policy Committee, followed by consultation with industry representatives and interested people.