‘Waste as an indicator of a sustainable community’ was presented at the WasteMINZ 28th Annual Conference held in Wellington recently. By Rachel Vaughan (environmental planner, Kaikoura District Council) & Rob Roche (MD, Innovative Waste Kaikoura).
Recycling has become a way of life in Kaikoura, with waste becoming an indicator which promotes sustainability and contributes to resilience within the community. Secondary to this is the positive social and environmental behaviour that a common vision embodies.
Throughout the community, positive environmental behaviour is becoming a social norm. Fifteen years of environmental data can show the increase in positive behaviour and the decrease in the community’s environmental footprint from waste.
So how does the community deliver recycling services on the smell of an oily rag when other centres are striving for efficiency? The answer is in a community-run organisation with a positive mandate, staff with a passion and a community drive to protect the natural environment.
Innovative Waste Kaikoura is a community-owned organisation delivering waste management within a number of contracts and with a strong ethos around environment, education and employment (the three Es). Its activities include resource recovery, landfill operations. Its innovative solutions include: event waste management; construction and demolition waste, Trees for Travellers; and the ‘Restoration Station’ and Kaikoura Community Shed.
Innovative Waste Kaikoura was born from a vision and a belief that Kaikoura is “too good to waste”. The vision was to achieve ‘zero waste’. The driving mandate was diversion from landfill in order to preserve and extend the life of landfill.
Nineteen years after adopting a zero waste vision, Kaikoura can illustrate reduced environmental impact. The success of the reduction in the community’s carbon footprint and overall environmental impact has hinged on positive behaviour change that can be illustrated by the ongoing success of the zero waste vision.
Kaikoura is now producing only 180 kilograms per person while the average in the OECD is 520 kilograms of waste per year. Waste diversion is around 75 percent of total waste by weight.
In 1998, it was predicted that with the current rate of waste disposal in Kaikoura, the urban landfill would be full by the year 2001. The Kaikoura community was faced with the options of spending millions on building a new landfill or shipping the landfill outside the district.
The first option, for new a landfill, was unattainable; this was just unaffordable for the community. With only 3600 ratepayers, the rates burden would be prohibitive to build a new landfill.
The second option to ship the waste outside the district to a regional landfill was an offensive proposition to the community. The community did not want their waste to be someone else’s problem.
During consultation, the community came up with a third option, this was to act more responsibly and reduce the amount of waste the community generated. This was much more acceptable to the community, thus the Kaikoura community embraced a vision of zero waste.