For Carolyn Robinson, the magic of recycling unwanted household goods is seeing them transformed into something special. For example, the old wooden chair that was rescued from the Reuse Store at Manurewa Community Recycling Centre (CRC) by a teacher and given a new home in her classroom.
“She painted it very colourfully and wrote ‘The Share Chair – Author sits here’ on it,” says Carolyn. “She sent us photos. It warms our hearts to see that this rickety chair is now a treasured part of a classroom.”
Carolyn is a waste minimisation specialist at Manurewa CRC, a job she started after attending a Compost Collective course and realising how much waste was going to landfill. “That woke me up,” she says. “I got passionate about zero waste and realised I had to make a job change.”
Now, along with a small team of staff and dedicated volunteers, Carolyn helps to run the Reuse Store and provide recycling solutions for unwanted household items and materials.
The Manurewa CRC is run by Beautification Trust and is a community hub for fixing things, learning about sustainable living and finding bargains on second-hand goods – as well as offering Pātaka Kai, a free community pantry. The centre opened in November 2022 and is part of Auckland Council’s network of 11 community recycling centres across the region.
Motivated by the mission of keeping as much as possible out of landfill, the staff and volunteers find creative ways to recycle things. For anything the centre can’t accept, such as mattresses, the team offers advice on where people can take their items to be recycled.
In the Reuse Store, unwanted goods get a new lease on life. Second-hand clothes, toys, kitchenware, homeware and furniture fill the shelves, and Carolyn encourages everyone to have a look around. “You might find a personal treasure or a bargain. A lot of people will find something like an ornament that reminds them of their childhood, a particular toy or dish.”
“It’s refreshing to know people are looking for recycling solutions and understand there are fees. There’s change out there and people want to do the right thing.”
Daniel Barthow, CEO of Beautification Trust, is excited about the different zero waste initiatives at the centre. “We’ve recently started regular repair cafes where people can pop in to have a much-loved broken item repaired by a volunteer,” Daniel explains. “And we have plans for recycling larger-scale plastic items that can’t go into kerbside recycling, like broken crates and laundry baskets.”
Through education resources and the passionate support offered by the team, Manurewa CRC is helping to spread the zero waste kaupapa. For Daniel and the rest of the team, this is what makes their work so rewarding.
“We’re excited when we see our community leave our centre having learned more about zero-waste solutions.”