Monday, September 13, 2010

Waste Audit at MAC

The Regeneration Otago Quaranteen Island weekend inspired Meg & Violet to start plans to get some kind of level upon their school recycling system. One of the actions that came out of producing these plans was to do a waste audit at school. We needed some data about what exactly Mount Aspiring College were throwing away before we could design a system to direct it to the best stream and then reducing it.

Megan has done a fantastic job of motivating Luke, Rob and Jarrod into helping out with the waste audit which we did after school. Massive props to you all, it's one of the stinky jobs and it's real impressive to see you all step up to get it done in your own time.

We had a conversation with the property manager the week before and found out that we could easily get access to a weeks worth of waste on a Thursday. The blue bags come from classrooms and the black bags are from communal areas and bins outside.

I brought along a stack of crates with labels to sort the waste into, a tarp, some scales and most importantly a box of latex gloves. With everything we needed it was time to empty the waste, bag by bag onto the tarp and get measuring.

The thing that struck me was the amount of plastic bags that were being used. Inside each of these blue bags could be up to 8 other blue bags. I'm not so much a fan of plastic bags as it is, so this seemed something that we needed to get on top of. How could a collection system change to stop the use of literally hundreds of plastic bags every month??? I'm sure it won't be that hard.

I was expecting lots and lots of food and paper. I certainly got what I expected. Again, all this requires is the correct easy to use and collect system in place to ensure this waste goes to the appropriate stream. It looks like we need a pretty big worm farm / bokashi / compost system. Or in fact we could just finish the food we bring to school rather than throw it all away.

There were a lot of food wrappers, although they are light and take up relatively little volume it is still a significant problem. It seems that MAC is like most other communities in NZ, they love their pies.....mind you, so do I. When you see the empty pie wrappers on mass it really shows you what a problem it is. Does a pie really have to come in a plastic wrapper? I'm not sure it does. I always thought the point of the pastry was to be a wrapper of some sorts.

We noticed the issue of having all the waste muddled up together. The food scraps had contaminated everything else in the bags. It was certainly yuck, and so easily avoidable. The bag of dog poo, and it was a massive bag, that Kim found was certainly the most yuck thing I've experienced for a long while. It also didn't really fit into what I expected to find in the school bins.

A small ish pile of 'oh my god I can't believe they threw that away' started to accumulate. A full can of coke, unopened instant noodles, a bunch of bananas, some badminton rackets, a football......I'm sure there was a reason why they got biffed but perhaps we could encourage that they were biffed in a more productive reusable way?

Something we also have to remember is that Wastebusters collected on wheelie bin (240l) of paper and a wool sack of cardboard (480l) from MAC this week. So it's happening in some places, we just need to get the same thing happening everywhere.

Next steps? Meg and the rest of the crew will be analysing the figures and will have details of what's to follow soon.

Whoop whoop, amazing work from these young change makers!

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