Media Release: Community composting could save Auckland Council $100m

March 16, 2018 by  
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Every year Aucklanders produce over 110,000 tonnes of organic food waste. Fortunately 35% of Aucklanders are green fingered and compost at home, another 2% support community gardens but unfortunately 61% of us put food waste into Council bins destined for landfill.

The food waste that ends up in our landfill produces leachate, essentially acid, and in many of Auckland’s old landfills this can contaminate the ground water and also produces methane which is 21 times worse for greenhouse gas emissions than CO2. 

Through the Auckland Waste Minimisation Strategy Auckland Council has been working towards diverting food waste from landfill. Auckland Council is currently consulting on its Long Term Plan on a number of key local issues including a waste levy of $67 on kerbside food waste collection.

Auckland Council is currently in a RFI process with two waste companies to create a kerbside collection using diesel trucks delivering over 55,000 tonnes of food waste per year to two methane plants situated one in the far north and one in the far south of Auckland. These plants draw the water out of the bio mass burning the hydrogen producing electricity to run the plant. Under the proposed terms Auckland Council would be locked down by two duopolies for a long period of time and the contracts could potentially be worth $630m over twenty years.

One local councillor is questioning the methodology and saying focusing more on community composting would save Auckland Council millions over ten years.

 Waitemata Local Board member Rob Thomas says “Auckland Council spending over $500 per tonne for a region wide compost collection service is expensive when comparted to composting at home in communities or even taking in to the tip green waste service for $142 per tonne.”

“Thousands of diesel trucks movements a year will generate huge CO2 emissions in complete contradiction to Mayor Phil Geoff’s support of the C40 Climate Change Initiatives. The proposed service will be harmful to our environment and further drive the planet into climate catastrophe.”

Instead Mr Thomas is proposing an alternative mix of household composting, community composting and a scaled down version of the food waste collection service that could save Auckland Council over $100m over ten years with zero emissions.

 “Over 35% of Aucklanders already compost at home and I do not understand why Auckland Council would not be using some of the $67 a household to encouraging a greater uptake. If Auckland Council were to encourage 50% of Aucklanders to compost at home, which is not an unreasonable target, this could save ratepayers over $100m over the next ten years.”

Mr Thomas is quick to point out that a compost bin at The Warehouse costs $45 and with some additional training for $30 per household or searching for free on “how to compost” on YouTube could save the Council an enormous amount of money.

“If Auckland Council gave away free compost bins to households wanting to compost at home this could save Auckland Council $585 every ten years. It’s a no-brainer. “

However, Auckland Council is proposing to lock-in all households to the collection service and there is no option to opt-out for potentially decades.

Aucklanders should be able to opt-out of the service if they decide to compost at home or support a local community garden producing local food in the neighbourhood. I don’t believe Aucklanders should be locked down by a food waste duopoly that is expensive and environmentally harmful.”

Like many Aucklanders Mr Thomas lives in an apartment and understands that not every Aucklander can compost or are willing to participate which is why he is proposing a community collection service. Across Auckland there are over 300 community gardens in local neighbourhoods and through school programmes such as Enviro Schools & Garden to Table.

“Auckland Council has existing relationships with a large network of community gardens. Identifying a number with these groups and instead of burning micro biology out of the soil we could be growing food in our community.”

Kilmarna Garden in Herne Bay was recently awarded an Auckland Council waste reduction grant to use sustainable electric bikes to collect food waste from the surrounding area to grow food. Mr Thomas believes the proposal has the ability to create local employment, have a zero emissions operation, have an anaerobic large scale composting system to serve local households, grow local food, create revenue from food sales, act as a carbon sink and be sustainable. A similar service was run on Waiheke Island which supporting food waste collection for 150 households and the community market.

“Working in partnership with existing community garden would help to reduce food waste to landfill, reduce cost, create greater community engagement, create carbon sinks, educate our communities and deliver high-nutrition food into our community.”

Over the next 50 years major climatic changes will occur on the planet due to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. There is a world-wide concern about food security and many communities around the world are taking action to take control of the production of soil and growing local food source. A European Union Report in 2012 called Sustainable Food in Urban Communities identified how food waste was being used to develop low-carbon and resource-efficient urban food systems in cities around the world.

“Other cities around the world are adopting food growing in urban communities. Auckland’s Communities need to also be resilient to the challenges of climate change. Decentralising the food waste model through composting at home and community gardens will create greater resilience and solutions to climate change.”

Auckland Council’s Long Term Plan is currently open for consultation.

To submit your feedback visit:  https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/have-your-say

 

Attached

Decentralising the Food Waste Model

 

Media Contact

Rob Thomas, Elected Member, Waitemata Local Board

 

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