Wakatipu waste explodes

Ready for collection: But how much goes to landfill?

Queenstown’s council has missed – by a mile – its target for reducing waste to landfill.

In its 2015 long-term plan, the council set a target of reducing household waste from 188kg per resident to 160kg this year.

But instead it blew out to a whopping 258kg in 2016 – a 38 per cent increase.

Councillor Alexa Forbes says most of it is glass being buried rather than being recycled – something Mountain Scene revealed last May.

“It’s bad – the target has seriously been missed,” Forbes says.

“We’re putting 77 tonnes per week of glass in landfill; that’s 11.8 per cent of our landfill in 2016.”

There’s no recycling market for mixed coloured glass. Other councils separate glass for recycling.

Council figures show the district produced about 47,000 tonnes of residential and commercial waste in the 2015/16 financial year.

About 33,000 tonnes – the weight of about 100 jumbo jets – are being buried at the Victoria Flats landfill each year.

The other 14,000 tonnes are diverted for recycling, re-use, re-sale or green waste.

In Queenstown glass is collected in recycling bins, whereas in Wanaka it’s colour-separated at the kerbside.

Sustainable Queenstown’s deputy chair Esther Whitehead says the waste explosion is a colossal issue.

“The poor decision around contracts in 2009 and growth has put [the district] back so far.”

Whitehead says previous councils favoured cheaper contracts over sustainability. Some of the contracts are up for review. Council spent $7.6m a year on waste management in 2015/2016, about nine per cent of total expenditure.

Whitehead: “I’ve been pushing this agenda for about two years.”

In April 2016, Whitehead formally called for transparency, waste diversion strategies, and that the council employs a waste minimisation officer.

She got no response, but that was under the last council. Whitehead says: “I think Jim Boult and his team are trying to remedy the issues.”

Forbes: “We need to recycle [glass] and we have a solution coming.”

That could be kerbside separation or sorting later.

Forbes says the new waste minimisation plan will target organic waste and glass to start with.

About 16 per cent of the district’s waste is organic.

“With our restaurants, hotels and households we have massive food waste.”

Solutions include a large worm farm (vermicasting), anaerobic digestion, aerobic digestion, composting and education on minimisation.

“Things that don’t rely on commodity markets.”

The initial goal is a 20 per cent reduction overall of waste to landfill over the next decade.