When Welshman Matt Foulkes moved into the small farming community of Arohena, near Otorohanga, he naturally wanted to know who was coming to pick up his rubbish and recycling.
But he was surprised to discover the answer was no one. There was no collection service or drop off point available in the area, meaning locals often had to burn or bury their waste on their own land.
“I approached the local council but they said it just wasn’t feasible to offer a rubbish or recycling service where a small population was spread over such a wide area,” he said.
So Mr Foulkes, who has a masters degree in environmental management, got together with other locals and they started their own recycling scheme.
Environment Waikato and Zero Waste New Zealand Trust funded a trailer, Otorohanga District Council gave them a shipping container for a skip, Wallace Corporation supplied some plastic drums, and Arohena School allowed them to use its disused bus shed. The students made signs and the collection depot was launched.
The Arohena community is now leading the way when it comes to thinking globally and acting locally.
“Our depot has been operating for about six months now and we’re diverting about half a tonne of glass, tin, aluminium and plastics from the landfill each month,” Mr Foulkes said.
People take turns to transfer recyclables from the depot to a council collection point in Otorohanga and interest in the service is “steadily increasing”.
The group is also working to promote environmental issues in the community and its link with the school recently resulted in students starting a vegetable garden to promote healthy eating and more environmentally sustainable practices.
“Hopefully we can highlight opportunities for community action and inspire like minded communities to do their own thing,” Mr Foulkes said.
“It’s taken us two years to get this up and running, but we learnt you’ve just got to keep trying. You’ll get knocked back but if you’re patient and stick at it you’ll get somewhere.”
The recycling group is holding an open day at Arohena School on Friday, 7 December at 1.30pm to celebrate its achievements to date and promote the recycling scheme and anyone is welcome to attend.
Environment Waikato Waipa-King Country councillor Andra Neeley said Environment Waikato was thrilled to have been able to support the innovative scheme.
“It’s fantastic to see people in the community taking the initiative and leading the way and I wish the group continued success,” she said.