May 29 - Waste Not, Want Not - Can We Turn Our Trash To Cash?

What if waste wasn’t so wasteful?

I would like people thinking about how we can change rubbish disposal from being a cost to being a potential source of business for Northland. 

Consider this: For Re:Sort to clean those unwashed milk bottles we toss in the recycling your bottle increases costs. But what if Northland got the model right and we could receive waste and turn it into usable materials?

Currently, Council pays the Ministry for Environment $10 per tonne to dispose of rubbish. Also it costs about $50 per trailer load to take your waste to the dump, or $3 for a rubbish bag, and each household pays a $171 fee in rates each year to cover rubbish collection.  

In Whangarei, our Re:Sort landfill and recycling centre made money last year. Being partly private-owned and partly council-owned, it returned profit to both owners. Still though, the plant missed opportunities to turn rubbish into income, and we might need some big investment to set that up.   

Consider European countries who turn trash into cash:

  • The Swiss recycle almost everything apart from radioactive material. Even manure is in demand by compost producers and biogas plants. Construction/demolition (particularly concrete) accounts for the majority of waste in the country but high landfill costs are an incentive for concrete to be recycled.
  • Norway, one of the world leaders in waste disposal, generates income half from fees to receive trash from the UK and half from the sale of the energy created when incinerating waste powers turbines. Norway also capitalises on biogas made from food waste.


For a Northland example, take a look at local Portland Cement – they take tyres to burn as fuel to produce a quality product.

Wouldn’t it be great to set a vision of having a zero waste policy by 2022?

We could accept waste from outside the district to process and deal with.

If we set up smart businesses we could make our rubbish and recycling system –cost neutral.

Lastly, some numbers to think about:

-  Illegal dumping costs the Council $9,000 per month.

-  Where fines are imposed for illegal dumping, just $2,400 per month is collected.

Your waste levy is stretched to pay for:

- Roadside recycling collection, 

- Supporting transfer station operations where user charges are not adequate to cover the full cost of operation, 

- Illegal dumping clean-ups,

- Litter bin servicing, 

- Licensing implementation, 

- Education activities 

Can we turn the above into a profit instead of just an expense?