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Waikato: 40 Tonnes of Food Waste Collected in Trial

40 Tonnes of Food Waste Collected in First 6 months of dedicated Food Waste trial

Some 40 tonnes of kitchen scraps have been collected in the first six months of the Putaruru food waste trial. Instead of heading to landfill, Putaruru residents’ leftovers, bones, tea-bags and perishables past their use-by date have been diverted to commercial compost production, destined for use boosting production in the horticultural sector.

The Putaruru food waste trial is a joint initiative between South Waikato District Council and Earthcare Environmental. It follows a 2010 cost-benefit analysis of New Zealand household organic waste undertaken by Eunomia Research, which showed that diverting household food waste from landfill could result in an average of over $20 million per annum in social, economic and environmental benefits for the country. The study found that key to achieving benefits of this magnitude is the separation of food waste from green waste rather than mixing together in a co-mingled organic collection.

The 12-month trial launched in April when all 1,400 households in the Putaruru township were delivered a vented kitchen caddy with a supply of compostable bin liners and a larger, lockable bin for storage and weekly kerbside collection.

“The results to date have been extremely encouraging,” says South Waikato District Mayor, Neil Sinclair.”Around two-thirds of residents are participating – which is remarkable given that it’s entirely voluntary and we haven’t provided any incentive other than communicating that it’s a good thing to do. The feedback I have received is that it’s easy to manage and they’re enjoying having odour-free rubbish bags that don’t attract scavengers. People also seem to be becoming more conscious of their food waste which in turn is encouraging more efficiency and awareness of recycling generally.”

Those comments are supported by the trial’s monitoring data. In addition to reducing the weight of kitchen waste in the general household collection by some 43% there has been a noticeable increase in the volume of other recycling.

“The end-result is that Putaruru’s total household rubbish going to landfill has already decreased by some 25%,” says Mike Jones, managing director of Earthcare Environmental. “We believe we can achieve higher rates of participation and further decrease the waste to landfill with more community education.”

A recent survey of Putaruru residents identified that many of those not-participating considered they had insufficient food waste to bother. Mr Jones said the immediate focus now is to get the word out that every little bit counts. “Once people start separating out their kitchen scraps, it raises a whole process of waste awareness.”

Organic waste makes up approximately half of the household rubbish sent to landfills in New Zealand. Of this, by far the largest proportion is food waste. Diverting kitchen waste from the general waste stream therefore represents a significant opportunity to minimise the amount of waste going to landfill, with associated cost-savings for councils and wider environmental benefits. Dedicated household food waste collection is increasingly common overseas but is not currently undertaken here.

ENDS

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