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Aucklanders to chew on food waste collection

19 August 2004

Aucklanders to chew on food waste collection

Auckland City will undertake consultation on a collection of food waste as part of its Waste Management Plan review.

A regional organic waste working group, made up of Manukau, North Shore and Auckland City councils, commissioned a comprehensive investigation into regional options for food waste composting by URS Limited.

Councillor Bill Christian, chairperson of Auckland City’s Works Committee, says the report forms the basis for further investigation and consultation into the feasibility of food waste composting.

“The costs involved in setting up a kerbside organic collection and composting plant would be significant. It would certainly need to be a regional initiative that Auckland City contributed to,” says Mr Christian.

“The report comes at an opportune time. We are currently reviewing our Waste Management Plan so there is the opportunity to consider having a preliminary investigation into how we could divert more food waste from landfill,” he says.

An assessment of the issues suggests that there are worthwhile environmental benefits and potential economic justification in developing large-scale food waste composting. There are also significant risks in developing large-scale food waste composting that need to be addressed. These risks relate to both facility and market development.

"These risks will affect the viability of food waste composting. However, we need to know whether people would support a food waste collection at local level and the review of our waste management plan offers the opportunity to gauge this,” says Mr Christian.

“The public will have the opportunity to have their say in early 2005 when the draft revised Waste Management Plan will be up for consultation."

The decision by Auckland City’s Works Committee to continue the preliminary investigation comes after comprehensive changes to Auckland city’s waste collection services in 2001.

Mr Christian says those changes needed to be monitored for a few years before a kerbside kitchen waste collection was investigated.

Organic waste (food and garden material) is a major component of the average household rubbish bin. It generally makes up half the contents of the average green 120-litre wheelie bin by weight.

Of what Auckland City collects annually from these bins, around 27,000 tonnes is food waste, which is then disposed of to landfill.

While organic waste is wonderful for composting, as it breaks downs in landfill, it produces the potent greenhouse gas methane and liquid known as leachate, which can pollute water and costs money to treat.

Mr Christian says that any changes would need to be made in tandem with public education about home composting and using private greenwaste collection.

That would mean a continuation of programmes such as the regional Create your own Eden campaign, which encourages smart "low-waste" gardening techniques such as composting, planting natives and using rain-water on the garden.

ENDS

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