Today marks Reflection Friday in this year’s Recycling Week NZ. It’s a chance to look back and see what we’ve learned and what we’ve done differently and to look ahead to what else we can do to create a more sustainable, waste-free Aotearoa.
Procurement Monday challenged us to think about what we buy – things that are easily able to be recycled and items with recycled content.
On Waste-free Tuesday, we made a conscious effort to avoid using our waste bin – to try and divert everything possible by recycling, composting, reusing, and upcycling.
“Knowing that many of the packaging items that can be placed in our kerbside recycling bins can take anywhere from 80 years, as is the case for aluminium cans, to over 450 years for plastic bottles, to never for glass, to break down in a landfill is a real incentive for us to recycle right and never put these items in a rubbish bin,” says Auckland Council’s General Manager Waste Solutions, Parul Sood.
It also helps to ‘recycle’ organic waste, such as green garden waste and food scraps, and keep it out of landfill by composting, worm farming, or using a bokashi bin. When organic materials are sent to landfill, they decompose and release methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.
Reusable Wednesday saw us trying to create a waste-free lunch, using no single-use packaging and only reusable containers.
“Reuse is a really important way for us to start making a big dent in the amount of waste we send to landfill," adds Parul Sood.
“Many multi-use options are available to help us avoid single-trip packaging – reusable coffee cups, refillable drink bottles, beeswax wraps. And they don’t need to be costly. There are lots of innovative and helpful tips online to try a bit of DIY and make your own.”
As Kiwis we’ve proved we can make the change – we’ve done a great job of adapting to reusable shopping bags with the introduction of the single-use plastic bag ban on 1 July this year.
Rinse-and-Clean Thursday reminded us of the importance of emptying out all the drink, food, liquids, and solids from any recyclable containers from our kitchen, bathroom, and laundry, and rinsing them well before we put them in our kerbside recycling bin.
Each year around 135,000 tonnes of recyclable materials are collected from residential streets, through Auckland Council’s kerbside recycling collections. About 12 per cent of what is collected, by weight, is made up of either non-recyclable items that people put in their recycling bin or recyclable materials that are too dirty or are full of drink, food, or other liquids and solids, which means they can’t be recycled.
“The best things that Aucklanders can do to improve our recycling results as a region is to be aware of what should and shouldn’t go in our kerbside recycling bin and to empty and rinse,” says Parul Sood.
It’s always great to finish off a week with good news. And the good news is after a week of challenging ourselves to do better on recycling, we’re rewarded with a long weekend. So why not use the time to get ready for summer with a Spring Clean Weekend with a difference. Turn what can be seen as an arduous task into a fun-filled adventure for your family or housemates by finding creative ways to reuse, repurpose, and upcycle things you no longer want. Or give unwanted items a second lease of life by donating them to your local charity shop or Community Recycling Centre.
“While the concept of zero waste to landfill can seem daunting and unachievable, this year’s Recycling Week helps prove the point that if we can do something for a day, and it’s not that hard to do, turning a one-day challenge into a permanent habit is doable. Those simple changes we make do add up and make a difference,” says Parul Sood.
Want to learn more about recycling
Register for a free educational session at the Visy Recycling Open Day Sessions, coming up on Saturday, 2 November, and learn how your kerbside recycling gets sorted, as well as how to recycle right. Auckland Council representatives will also be on site to answer your recycling questions.
To test your knowledge of what can and can’t be recycled in your kerbside recycling bin, check out the council’s online Recycle Right game. It’s a fun way to find out if you’re a recycling legend.