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We're talking a whole lot of rubbish this morning.
I know some people who are passionate recyclers. They know their shinizzle. If Mastermind was still being broadcast, recycling - the what's the how's and the where’s - would be their specialty subject.
There are others who simply don't care. Can't be bothered. Load of nonsense. It's not going to save the planet anyway. it's too hard, a load of bollocks. Biff, everything goes in the rubbish bin. Banana skins, glass bottles and all.
I suppose I'm somewhere in the middle - veering towards virtuous. I rinse out the recyclables, take the lids off. I don't know how I knew I was supposed to do that, but I did. I use the food scraps bin, but I'm not at the stage of posting my soft plastics to be recycled, which you can do. Could do better.
What complicates recycling in this country is that most consuls operate different methods of recycling. Some places it all goes in one bin, others you have to sort out your tins from your paper. But as of now, the whole country will have new standardised recycling guidelines to follow.
It's interesting that in some areas like Auckland, we are losing the ability to recycle some products. In effect, the national guidelines have been made for the lowest common denominator. Shouldn't we have aimed for a gold standard? Brought other regions recycling efforts up to the most efficient?
Well, David Howie, Waste Management New Zealand Executive General Manager of Circular Services (quite the title), answered that this morning on the Mike Hosking Breakfast. He says it's all about reducing contamination.
The biggest challenge is not so much the type of plastic but contamination generally, and the broader the range of materials that are accepted the greater the risk that we get increased levels of contamination with materials that can't be recovered and often that means that they'll impact materials around them, or potentially even a whole bin of recycling, and that reduces the rate dramatically.
So I think that the move to make it clear and to help people understand the standard system, with support and education clearly to help that, is a great way to make sure we do get that maximum recovery rate.
So understood, I understand that. I also think it helps if you know where your recycling ends up. Just putting it in the bin and hoping for the best, you think you've done your bit but I think it really does help to know where it goes.
For example, the food compost bins. And eventually it's going to be user pays when it comes to your organic waste so it's a way of getting people used to removing the food scraps out of the general rubbish and putting them into a specific bin designed for being taken away and recycled.
Some people were scoffing about that -where is it going to go?
We had a caller to the show last year who's told us exactly where it's going. He said a lot of trucks come up to Auckland with rubbish. They go back empty, so you fill them up with your organic food scraps, you take them to a central processing plant where it's turned into methane, and there are big glass houses right next door to this recycling plant that use them to grow vegetables and fruit in the glass houses.
Now, he was a talkback caller. He certainly sounded like he knew what he was talking about and that sounded absolutely spot on to me. If it's not true, I don't want to know.
It's a bit like I was told the Plane trees in Franklin Road, those beautiful big trees. Each one was planted for a boy whose life was lost in the First World War. I don't want to know that's not true. So don't bother telling me.
And it's a bit like that with the recycling of my of my banana skins and my vegetable peelings and the scraps from the kids school lunches. I want to know that that is going back in a truck that would otherwise have been going back empty, that it's being turned into a productive gas that can help grow food. That suits my narrative. I like that. I want to know what's happening to my tins, to my paper, to the plastics.
I see on some of the cartons and containers ‘made from recycled plastic’, and that makes me feel better. I think that's where my plastic's gone. This is good. I mean, ultimately it's better to not use it at all.
I know the holy mantra for reducing rubbish. That you don't use plastic water bottles, you have your big refillable reusable ones. I know all that.
But a lot of people who try and get rid of clothing, for example, if you saw the mountains of clothing that end up in countries in Africa, they're left to deal with the rubbish. They're left to deal with fast fashion. You buy something goes out of fashion, and you buy something for $25 at one of the chain stores, it rips it tears, it goes out of fashion. You put it in the recyclables.
Ultimately, there are mountains and mountains of unwanted and unwearable clothes that the people in Africa are having to deal with. So I want to know that it's not somebody else's problem. That when I'm recycling, it doesn't just become out of sight, out of mind, and somebody else's problem. I want to know that it is indeed circular.
And I think if we know that that will get more people on board. And to the sort of numpties that put a dirty disposable nappy into a recycling bin- I know you're not listening to the show, but if you happen to be, if you are that sort of numpty that puts a dirty nappy in a recycling bin, there is no hope for you. You will have to do remedial classes to learn how to be a decent human being.
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