Enviroschools West Coast Regional Coordinator, Zoe Watson, led a waste audit workshop with the Green Team Hokitika in November 2020, using waste from the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Hokitika office staff room.
The Green Team Hokitika is a network of representatives from local Westland organisations whose purpose is to “inspire, influence and bring sustainable behaviours to our organisations and communities”. The group meets every couple of months to share knowledge, initiatives and resources.
“Waste audits are a thorough assessment of what is in your waste stream. It provides valuable information about what types of waste are being generated, how waste is being generated, where it is ending up and what impact if may be having on your environment. This will help you pinpoint areas for action” – Enviroschools Zero Waste Theme Area Resource
The purpose of the audit was two-fold:
- For Green Team members to learn how to conduct a waste audit in order to bring the process back to their own organisations and community,
- To audit the waste streams of the DOC Hokitika whare kai/staff room and look for ways to improve its own management of waste.
DOC gathered the end of day waste streams from the whare kai/staff room a couple days before the audit. There were three waste streams including landfill waste, recycling and compost suitable for ingestion by DOC’s resident snails.
During the audit, each waste stream was:
- weighed to get a total weight for that waste stream
- divided into sub-categories of material that could have diverted from landfill (i.e. paper, plastics, organics, metals, etc…) and materials that couldn’t be diverted from landfill (i.e. all other waste)
- the amount of material in each sub-category was then weighed
- percentages of contamination and improper disposal were determined by dividing total weight by category weight
The results of the audit revealed some positive actions being taken as well as areas that could be improved. Positives included the fact that DOC is separating items into different waste streams. Also, fruit stickers are removed for the snails’ fodder, and not a single-use drink bottle or disposable coffee cup was to be found! The areas that could use some improvement included ensuring recycling is well sorted and cleaned and better diversion of compostable items, the items the snails don’t want, from the rubbish bin and to a separate compost stream.
Discussion among Green Team members during the waste audit brought up some great ideas that can have big results. The focus is on refusing and reducing items to take them out of waste streams and we can all follow this advice:
- Avoid using take away food containers. If you love a takeaway, you could have a supply of reusable food containers handy.
- Avoid using takeaway cutlery. Why not bring your meal back to the office or home, or take your own reusable cutlery with you for a picnic.
- Bring your own reusable cup to the café to get your coffee fix if you aren’t already.
Here are some helpful hints to recycle what we can, and to get our recycling right:
- Don’t throw something into the rubbish that can be recycled. Sometimes those recycling numbers are really small and hard to find! Take the time to look.
- Wash items before putting them into recycling collection.
- Check plastic can be recycled before putting it in the recycling bin. Only plastics marked with a 1, 2 or 5 can be recycled in Westland.
- New advice from the Council is not to crush plastic or tins and not to include any lids, plastic or metal – check the Westland District Council website for their recycling information.
Compost what you can:
- Don’t forget to collect compostable paper and cardboard as well as food items for compost. They will improve your compost by providing much needed carbon and you will reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill.
- Make sure you take stickers off fruit and bin them – they are plastic.
- When buying tea for the office or home, think about your tea bags – many include plastics or nylons in the seals or fibres. Look for ones that are made of paper and then compost them or switch to loose leaf tea and enjoy a slower approach to your cuppa! If you’d like to find out more, have a look at the Consumer website and search for ‘teabags’.
We all know the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra, but there are more Rs! The Waste Hierarcy shows the best options at the top and recycling quite a way down the list.
What is one thing you can do today to minimise your waste to landfill?
RETHINK > REFUSE > REDUCE > REUSE > RECYCLE > REPAIR > ROT
Banner image: Zoe helps prepare members for a waste audit.