This month, OurAuckland is meeting some of the people who work 'behind the scenes' to make Tāmaki Makaurau a great place to live.
Before you’ve even had your morning coffee, bin inspectors Winston Tupou and Reno Morgan are lifting the lid of your recycling bin and having a look inside. They’re not looking for materials for their next DIY project – they're checking to make sure what you’ve put in the bin can really be recycled.
Tupou and Morgan are part of a team of recycling bin inspectors who inspect over 2000 bins a day, with the goal of educating people to change their recycling habits for the better. For bins that contain wrong items, tags with information are placed on the bin to let the resident know how they can improve.
The pair agrees that one of the best parts of their job is to watch neighbourhoods transform their recycling habits.
Morgan says Aucklanders are good recyclers, but a lot of people still put the wrong things in their bin.
“We see a lot of ‘wish-cycling’. Items that people hope can be recycled – coffee cups, polystyrene meat trays, clothing, and glassware from the kitchen. These are easy mistakes, but we also see deliberate contamination – nappies, dangerous gas canisters, garden waste, furniture and rubbish.
“There are ‘hot spots’ where we used to tag nearly every bin in a neighbourhood. Now, when we re-visit those streets we can’t find one bin to tag. It’s amazing the transformation some areas have gone through. That’s telling us that people want to recycle right, and we’re here to help them get it right.”
“I love showing people that what they put in their bin makes a big difference to our environment. Getting your recycling bin right means we send less waste to landfill,” Tupou says.
“We have conversations with people every day. A lot of parents will bring their kids over to ask us about recycling. And for the elderly, it’s a chance for them to interact with someone and maybe learn something new.”
Tupou says the job requires a lot of walking and an eye for safety. Not just being careful and dodging dangerous items when he delves into recycling bins, but he also constantly watches out for traffic, people reversing from their driveways and dogs.
Tupou says, “It’s important for all of us to help look after recycling.” One of the most common wrong items Tupou and Morgan find in recycling bins are plastic bags.
“A lot of people use plastic bags to carry their glass bottles and recycling out to their bin, not realising that plastic bags jam our sorting machinery.”
Instead, you can recycle plastic bags and soft plastics by taking them to your local supermarket. Check the store locator to find a collection point near you.
How you can help
A rule of thumb to follow is that you can recycle most packaging containers from your kitchen, bathroom and laundry. Just remember to rinse and leave lids on bottles and containers before placing them in the recycling bin.
If you’re unsure about whether an item can be recycled or not, check out our recycling search tool.
Or play the Recycle Right game to test your knowledge and see if you know what is supposed to go in your recycling bin.