What a rubbish idea

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    Three lonely barstools berm-stranded at the top of Goodwin Ave. Yup, I’ll have those, I thought.

    They graced my shack in Frank Street for a few years and then, when I moved round the corner to a bar-free kitchen, they headed further up the road to the then SPCA.

    It took only a couple of days for them to be snapped up. But, sure enough, about a year later I spied them on the side of Jellicoe Parade, the slight wicker fray a dead giveaway for my trusty old perches. Again, they weren’t there long, mind you. Snapped up, hopefully, by another fan of kitchen morning cryptics, coffee and cornflakes, for which they provided adequate support (if not total comfort).

    I like to think those barstools are still winging their way around Waiheke’s homes on that constant merry-go-round of berm-friendly refurbishment and free-cycling that a community such as ours does so well.

    In recent years the heap-it-on-the-berm-and-hope-it-goes mentality has changed somewhat. Instead of Sundays spent lugging everything from hedge-trimmers to hi-fis down to the bottom of the drive, we’ve had to get used to preordering collections, and instead of knowing you could furnish a kitchen from the neighbouring roadsides we’ve had to trek out to Tahi Road to visit the inorganic free shop.

    That glorious emporium of effective Wombling diverted 14 tonnes of inorganic waste from landfill between last November and May and will open its doors again on November 11 for another summer.

    14 tonnes of rubbish. Difficult to picture, isn’t it? But break it down into the 200kg of recycling per day when the shop was open and you realise the scale of their achievement. It’s the equivalent of a Nissan Leaf electric car every week!

    The beauty of this free shop isn’t just in its cause – it’s also in what it represents on an island that – truth be told – has struggled to run its waste management services over the past decade or so.

    Today we’re running an advert on page 70 for full and part-time jobs with Island Waste Collective which include “upcycling, recycling, dismantling… and working as a team to give waste a second chance”. Because all this free-cycling is helping bring employment to Waiheke too.

    The contact for those interested in those jobs is Global Action Plan Oceania who work with New Hope and Waiheke Resources Trust  to run the inorganic free shop.

    Andrew and Jane Walters from Global Action Plan Oceania are the husband and wife team that also runs the exceptionally successful Devonport Community Recycling Centre on Auckland’s North Shore. For them, recycling is part of an overall strategy of practical activism.

     And the free shop looks to be just the start.

    Andrew, Jane and Waiheke Resources Trust chair John Stansfield have been musing while taking the ferry to and from Waiheke that they needed a fresh approach and a long term strategy to regain control of the island’s waste. When pressed just how this might work, they’re pretty straightforward.

    “The need for a capable, competent, efficient local waste provider with recent experience and a range of  innovations and skills covering all areas of waste management and community engagement was identified.  The Island Waste Collective was formed as a partnership by Global Action Plan and its partners a few years ago as a way to prepare for bigger things to come. Different parties on Waiheke were invited to work together with a shared interest of reducing waste to landfill and partnering together to show a united effort to reduce waste.”

    “Bigger things to come.” That’s the key.

    The free shop and inorganic collections represent how small innovative schemes can really grow into something that  all New Zealand can be proud of. Already the contract they are part of is producing the best diversion results in Auckland. The challenge is to get community buy-in to achieve zero waste to landfill – what Andrew describes as “treating waste as a resource, keeping it on Waiheke and turning it into value and jobs”.

    What used to be a fine way to find three half-decent barstools is now being turned into a way to change our bad habits about how we live. And if we can grow that into a way to run how we deal with waste on Waiheke in the longterm, then that’s not such a rubbish idea. •  James Belfield

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