Beating Auckland’s summer waste spike

New year, new opportunity to start your zero-waste journey

Last Updated : 18 Feb 2020
Beating Auckland's seasonal waste spike3
Beating Auckland's seasonal waste spike2

Each year in Auckland, there is a seasonal spike in the amount of waste and recyclables produced between December and February.  In January 2019, we created 17* per cent more recyclable materials and generated 9* per cent more rubbish than on an average month.

While enjoying summer and celebrating holiday festivities over January 2019, Aucklanders generated 3,240 tonnes more overall waste.  That’s the equivalent of 114 double decker buses.

Councillor Richard Hills, Chair of the Environment and Climate Change Committee, says that waste is everyone’s business and we all have a part to play in cutting back the amount of waste we produce and reducing the flow-on effects to our climate.

“The summer waste spike occurs despite the fact that many Aucklanders leave the city over the summer period,” says Councillor Hills.  “So, at a household level, for the people that remain, the percentage increase is actually much greater than 10 per cent.”

Hills says it can sometimes seem that the problem is too big for any one person to tackle.  However, to combat the climate emergency we’re facing, he thinks we simply have to do better.  So, he’s taking on the challenge in 2020 to keep moving forward with his own personal zero waste journey.

“I read something recently that said we don’t need a few people doing zero waste perfectly.  Rather we need millions of people doing zero waste imperfectly.  I found that thought very encouraging.  We all just need to do what we can.  It all adds up.  Do you know if each Auckland household reduced their waste by just 1 kilogram over the summer season, this would reduce Auckland’s summer waste by around 18 double-decker buses’ worth every year?  So, I’m looking to make some changes in 2020 to do better.”

Beating Auckland's seasonal waste spike1
The composition of an average Auckland household’s kerbside rubbish bin

Top 10 tips for starting your zero-waste journey in 2020:

  1. Know your ‘why’ – maybe it’s a way for you to save money, or because you want to reduce your environmental footprint, or because you’re worried about the impact of plastic waste on our oceans and bird and marine life. Understanding why you want to start your journey will help you to stay motivated throughout the year. 
  2. Start composting – food scraps make up almost half of an average Aucklander’s rubbish bin. Composting, having a worm farm, or using a bokashi bins are all great ways to keep valuable food scraps out of landfill.  Find out more at
  3. Say ‘no thanks’ to avoidable single use items, such as straws, coffee stirrers, disposable cutlery and plates, and coffee cups.
  4. Join the refillution – use a reusable drink bottle and fill up with tap water for free at drinking fountains and RefillNZ stations around the country
  5. Second-hand first – check out charity shops or Auckland’s network of Community Recycling Centres and buy second-hand, rather than new. You’ll find it’s better for your pocket as well as the environment.
  6. Use what you already have – starting your zero-waste journey doesn’t mean there needs to be a big outlay to buy new stuff. Check your cupboards for existing jars or containers or look for ways to upcycle and repurpose items to make what you need.
  7. Buy in bulk – and bring your own reusable containers.
  8. Make your own – whether it’s a reusable bag made from an old t-shirt, your own cleaning products, baking your own snacks and treats, and cooking homemade meals, there’s lots of things you can do to reduce your waste by doing it yourself.
  9. Take care of your possessions – maintain and care for your belongings so that they go the distance. When things break down, look for ways to repair them, rather than going out and replacing them.
  10. Become part of the zero-waste community – look for local groups and get to know like-minded people that can share their ideas and learnings with you and support you on your journey.

Auckland’s zero-waste future - New Year, new leaf

As we prepare to welcome in a new decade, what new challenges are you setting for yourself? Will you be inspired to take a single step or even several steps to help Auckland to reach its vision of zero waste to landfill by 2040? 

“The task can seem daunting and, some may say, impossible to achieve,” says Parul Sood, General Manager Waste Solutions.  “But there are many cities around the world that have set similar targets to us, and even cities that have already achieved zero waste.  So, we know it can be done.  Every step that any person takes towards reducing their waste does make a difference.”

*Footnote:  Figures above have been updated to correct the data previously published - "In January 2019, we created 9 per cent more recyclable materials and generated 6 per cent more rubbish than on an average month."

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