Feedback Flaws – Letter to Editor

The Napier City & Hastings District Councils have put out a discussion document for public feedback on Waste Futures. They claim this is a $50 million dollar question. Good on them for starting this discussion.

Cross section of Omaranui Landfill

Cross section of Omaranui Landfill

It is unfortunate that the discussion document has been framed on an either or basis. Essentially we are asked is “the cost of the project OR reducing the impact on our environment” the most important thing to us. It then goes on to suggest four different waste disposal techniques.

This is all well and good. However I would have considered the most important discussion to be around how do we reduce the amount of rubbish going to landfill in the first place? Whilst staff are exploring “improving our recycling and composting rate” no mention is made of how this is to be done and if it is going to be costed. We may well find it cheaper than building mega landfill.

Omaranui Landfill

Omaranui Landfill

To my mind this is an oversight that needs to be corrected. For example single use plastic bags are in the media currently given that Local Government New Zealand asked for their use to be banned.  Good on LGNZ. This has proved possible in other jurisdictions, why not Hawke’s Bay?

My family are dedicated recyclers and composters. During last years waste free week I investigated what was in my family’s rubbish bag for that week. It consisted almost entirely of packaging.  The plastic wrap that seemingly goes around everything sold in the supermarkets. Yoghurt pottles and non recyclable containers. Things we are all familiar with. What are the councils doing to reduce this waste community wide?

A weeks worth of rubbish from Paul's household

A weeks worth of waste

And what about white-ware, brown-ware, small batteries, and technology? How do we dispose of these without cost to the consumer? What about the polystyrene packaging that these items come in? What is being done to reduce these waste streams? I could go on of course.

So I believe this is more than just a cost v environment question trade off and if we want to have genuine consultation around this $50 million dollar question then let’s do so. Presenting only half the story does us, or children, and our grandchildren no favours. It’s not to late for the councils to rethink this. Can you please do so.

Published 27/7/15

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One Response to Feedback Flaws – Letter to Editor

  1. Paul Bailey says:

    Tēnā koe Paul,

    Thank you for your input into the Napier and Hastings Waste Futures project.

    You quite rightly pointed out that waste reduction is key in this debate. As a region we have managed to reduce the waste we landfill at the Omarunui Landfill from over 140,000 tonnes per annum in the 2004/05 financial year to a little over 72,000 tonnes in the 2014/15 year. Even at that halved amount of waste, the current valley will be approaching capacity in around 10 years’ time. The reality is that there will always be residual waste that has to be disposed of in some way and the councils are obliged to provide for that.

    The discussion document that the Councils have recently released is intended as a starting point in the discussion over how we should manage waste in the region. At this stage the point is to bring the issue of solid waste management to the communities’ attention as the council teams work through the options to put before the public. The reason for the ‘cost or environment’ question is to try and tease out just where residents’ priorities lie.

    The plan is to look at all the options, rather than by default starting down the path of a “business as usual” approach of expanding the existing landfill. The criteria, at this early stage, are that the outcomes should:

    § Cause the least harm to people and the environment

    § Extract as much value from waste as possible

    § Be affordable for the community

    § Offer a robust and sustainable solution

    § Result in a reduction in waste being sent to Landfill

    Again, recycling is key. We have undertaken waste surveys at the landfill and know that significant quantities of waste that is landfilled could, theoretically at least, have been composted or recycled. Currently we are surveying over 3000 households through the region to identify the participation rates in our kerbside recycling schemes and interviewing people who choose to recycling at recycling centres. The work to date indicates that not all of our community is participating in the recycling schemes we provide. Understanding why this is occurring is the first step in determining what we can do improve our recycling rates.

    Alternative waste management solutions have the potential to significantly reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, ultimately placing greater emphasis on the upper tiers of the waste hierarchy below, which we must consider as part of our obligations under the Waste Minimization Act.

    Notwithstanding the need to reduce waste and increase recycling, Councils are obliged to provide somewhere to dispose of waste. Although landfill is the only disposal technology in use in New Zealand, overseas other technologies have become common place due to landfill bans and taxes. Before we extend the landfill we are investigating these technologies to see if they might be suitable.

    The work done so far shows that however the community chooses to dispose of waste, it will come at cost, both fiscally and environmentally. Once we have finished pricing the options robustly we need to ask residents how much more they will pay to reduce the environmental impact of rubbish disposal.

    This project is a work in progress – we don’t have all the answers yet – but we know that we need to identify what the future of waste management in Napier and Hastings should look like before we spend money extending the landfill. The Councils will be coming back to their communities, once we have more fully developed our options and identified the costs, risks and benefits of them, to continue this discussion.

    If you have any further questions on this project, please don’t hesitate to contact myself.

    RACHEL LANDON BE(hons) MIPENZ CPEng IntPE
    PECIAL PROJECTS ENGINEER

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