Waitākere Community Recycling Centre project manager Jon Morgan, known better as 'Green Jon', is keen to see local consumers become zero-waste champions.
How did you get the name Green Jon?
It came when I first started with MacLaren Park Henderson South (MPHS) Community Trust. I was working as a community coordinator in Project Twin Streams with a lot of primary school children and they coined the term.
How did you get into working in waste?
I’d been working for MPHS for a while but my ‘aha’ moment came when I went along to a meeting to find out about Auckland Council’s focus on zero waste. There were a few people I instantly connected with and the more people I met – such as the amazingly enthusiastic community groups – the more I wanted to be involved.
I’ve never worked in an industry that has such a strong vision and willingness to work together and share the love.
What are the rewards of working in this industry?
The opportunity to teach people how the environment is crucial to their own lives is at the heart of it.
Here at Waitākere Community Recycling Centre we believe that building strong rapport with customers and the wider community is the best way to encourage people to make the necessary shift in their thinking that turns them into zero-waste champions.
What does a typical day involve for you?
I tend to arrive early to get the 'housework' done – emails and reporting – then set up the tasks for the day. By 8.30am we’re organising the shop. One of the team will be on the dumping floor rescuing valued waste, while other staff will be processing valued waste into the shop and serving customers. We can get extremely busy and then it can be tough so ensuring everyone is safe and not stressed is a priority.
Probably the biggest challenge is difficult customers and put-downs. The staff find that hard and being resilient takes talent.
What has surprised you most about working in waste?
The sheer volume of it is always surprising. Having the Community Recycling Centre within the Waitākere Transfer Station means that waste is very 'present'.
When volunteers and groups visit the Community Recycling Centre I can show them the mountain of waste that is produced daily in just one part of Auckland. That visual perception really changes people’s attitudes.
Another surprising thing is the amount of stuff that is thrown away that could be reused or recycled in some way.
What’s the one thing you wish everybody knew about waste?
It can be really easy to work towards zero waste without trying too hard. Categorising things correctly and slowing down the process is vital. People are in a real hurry these days and often don’t stop to think about what they are throwing away.
A little bit of effort and thought can really change things. We find that having those conversations with people and getting them thinking about what is waste really changes their perspective.
About Waitākere Community Recycling Centre
Waitākere Community Recycling Centre aims to reduce waste to landfill as much as possible by repurposing, recycling and reusing material. The Centre also contributes back to the community, offering job opportunities, affordable items and funding for a number of great initiatives within the community
You can visit the Waitākere Community Recycling Centre from 9am-4.30pm on Tuesday to Friday and 9am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Full details of Community Recycling Centres across the Auckland region are available on the Auckland Council website.