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Scavengers to make money and help environment

Scavengers to make money and help environment

Wellington City Council is planning to turn rubbish into gold. A gang of workers has been assigned to comb through rubbish at the Northern Landfill to pick out anything that is reusable. More than half of the waste dumped at Council landfills can be recycled, reused or sold. Now, for a one-month trial, an extra six staff have been employed as ‘scavengers’ to manually sort cardboard, paper, scrap metal, plastic and timber into bins for further processing or sale.

From Tuesday (5 April), when Northern Landfill users arrive to dump rubbish they will find ‘meeters and greeters’ directing them to the right place.

“Staff will be sorting material and placing it into the appropriate bin. We are asking users to dump material near the bin that most closely matches their load,” says Council CitiOperations Manager Mike Mendonça.

He says people using the landfill might experience minor delays as they are directed to the right place. Users are being asked to be patient during the trial of the new system.

Proceeds from sales of items recovered will be used to offset the cost of sorting and transport. While sales are not expected to fully recover the direct cost of the trial, each cubic metre of ‘air space’ saved means the life of the landfill can be extended and waste can be diverted from the environment, Mr Mendonça says.

The trial will focus on the Northern Landfill but a smaller trial will also run at the Southern Landfill in conjunction with Carter Holt Harvey's Full Circle business. The Southern Landfill trial will focus on reducing paper and cardboard waste, which accounts for a quarter of the waste. A further two ‘scavengers’ will be working there.

The landfills each handle up to 100,000 tonnes of rubbish a year. The Northern Landfill is scheduled to close in a year’s time, but the Southern Landfill has much longer-term capacity. The Council intends to preserve this capacity for as long as possible through such initiatives.

The Council’s Environment Portfolio Spokesperson, Councillor Celia Wade-Brown, says the trial delivers on the zero-waste objectives of the Council’s Solid Waste Management Plan. “People can still recycle for free by using the kerbside recycling service or by using the free recyclable dropoff points located at the entrances to the landfills,” she adds.

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