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Scavengers save 150 tonnes of dumped timber

3 May 2005

Scavengers save 150 tonnes of dumped timber

Northern Landfill workers have recovered more than 150 tonnes of timber – which would otherwise have gone to waste – in a month-long scavenging trial being run by the Wellington City Council’s CitiOperations team.

A gang of six workers have been combing through rubbish at the Northern Landfill to pick out anything reusable. Another two were put to work at the Southern Landfill. They have been sorting cardboard, paper, scrap metal, plastic and timber into bins for further processing or sale.

CitiOperations Manager Mike Mendonca says that in the past month, his “scavengers” have pulled out about five or six percent of recyclable materials. Once landfill users saw that dumped material was being sorted, they joined in and started depositing recyclables in the right piles.

Usable timber recovered will be sold through the Landfill shop and untreated timber will be composted. What can’t be sold or composted will be shredded to a fraction of the volume and mixed with abattoir waste. “This will save us having to mix it with valuable clean fill,” he says.

“We have decided to extend the trial for a month. We have learned a lot – among other things that we need to mechanise the operation.”

Options include using a big conveyor belt with people employed as “pickers” to grab reusable material. In some landfills, materials are sorted by means of revolving drums, and magnets are used to extract metals.

Councillor Celia Wade-Brown, the Council’s Environment Spokesperson, says the recovery of usable material by Council staff is great news. But if people use the kerbside recycling service or deposit recyclables at Landfill drop-off points, they will save themselves money.

More than half of the waste dumped at Council landfills can be recycled, reused or sold. The landfills each handle 100,000 tonnes of rubbish a year. The Northern Landfill is scheduled to close in a year’s time, but the Southern Landfill has significant capacity and it’s there that any investment in a system to retrieve material would be made.

The trial is expected to play a key role in waste minimisation and meets the objectives of the Council’s Solid Waste Management Plan.


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