Hamilton’s Waste Management: past – present – future

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In 1995/96, ‘each household in Hamilton produced approx. 8.5 kg of waste per week’*. In 1995/96 Hamilton sent an estimated 77,120 tonnes of waste to landfill (*Total to Horotiu was 92,120 tonnes per year which includes 15,000 tonnes from other districts). The 2017 Waste Assessment** writes that ‘Hamilton produces an estimated 245,700 tonnes of waste each year. Of this approximately 120,099 tonnes is sent to landfill and 125,600 tonnes are diverted to recycling or composting. This equates to around 0.78 tonnes (780 kg) [or 15 kg per week] of waste to landfill per person per year … rubbish volumes appear to be increasing, with a 33% increase since 2012, despite the successful implementation of activities set out in the 2012-2018 Waste Management and Minimisation Plan (p5**). Hamilton’s population in 1996 was 109,043; 2018’s population was 160,911 (a 47% increase), and waste to landfill increased by 55%.

Bullet Point: Kerbside recycling has not reduced per household/person land fill waste.

Hamilton City Council Waste Management Plan 1998

In 1995 the kerbside collection recycled *3,845 tonnes of paper. The Refuse Transfer Station diverted *727 tonnes of waste (glass, scrap metal etc) from the landfill in the years 1996/97 (*p14). In 1996/97 the Hamilton Organic Recycling Centre diverted 11,305 tonnes of green waste from landfill (*p16).

Hamilton City Council Waste Management Plan 1998

In 2016 the kerbside collection recycled 3,609 tonnes of paper, 4,461 tonnes of glass and scrap metal, and 735 tonnes of plastic (p21**). The combined total of green waste through the Hamilton Organic Centre and commercial green waste collections diverted an estimated 10,881 tonnes in 2016, plus 13,950 tonnes from wastewater sludge. An additional 153 tonnes of potential waste food was diverted by Kaivolution (26**).

**Hamilton City Council: Waste Assessment August 2017

Hamilton City Council Waste Management Plan 1998

2006-12 Long Term Plan (page 199) – The average rates bill was $1,362. Of this 4.5% was spent on recycling/refuse collection; a total of $61 per year ($78 in today’s money). Looking back at my rates bill from 2015-16, 5.7% was recycling/refuse and in 2017-18 it was 5.5%. In 2018-19 recycling/refuse was 4.0% of a rates bill, and now in 2020/21 recycling/refuse is again at 4.5% of our rates bill. This does present the increase in recycling as good value. 

However, looking back to the start of this post, increasing recycling has not been shown to reduce waste to landfill over the long term. If we continue to allow a ‘120-litre rubbish wheeled bin, collected fortnightly’^ (equal to 60 litres per week) of landfill waste be collected from the kerb, history is likely to repeat. The outcome of the Hamilton kerbside waste management plan will only show an increase in the overproduction of wrapping being added to the total recycling cost stream.

^Contract awarded for Hamilton’s new rubbish and recycling services.

HCC Per wheelie bin kerb-side waste Aug 2020

I have visited Europe a number of times over the past decade. In the Netherlands, wheelie bins are no longer common; a lot of recycling is done at supermarkets, and household waste goes into in-ground street bins accessed with a key card. We were told that if we over-used the in-ground bin too often, we would get a visit from a waste educator.

Having lived in a household of half a dozen people, one person can generate as much waste as the combined total of the rest of the household. The in-ground street bin allows identification of individuals card holders who generate extreme levels of waste and measures how effective waste reduction education is in real time.

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