Upcycle ME!

ME Family Services Resource Recovery Room therapist Georgina Kelly-Ngatoko had an “eye-opening experience” on her recent trip with organisation Waste Minz.  During the 2 day trip, she followed our trail of rubbish, checking out the recycle plant Visy in Onehunga, the Hampton Downs Landfill, Green Gorilla construction waste recycling, as well as two community resource recovery centres.  

 “I went on the trip to see what they do with our waste and how other communities deal with it”, says Georgina, whose work with ME Family Services involves connecting families and organisations in our community with resources recovered from Auckland Airport’s left luggage and lost property departments.

A highlight of the trip was the visit to Raglan, a small town of 2000 households a couple of hours drive south of Auckland.  “It’s a real upcycle town”, says Georgina, describing the way the community re-uses its own rubbish in creative ways. From the upcycled wooden tables and chairs in local restaurants, to the pieces of broken plates used to create mosaics in the pavements around the town. “Even the waiting staff in a local café wear aprons made out of old jeans”, explains Georgina.  

 In Raglan, the group visited the catalyst for all this upcycle mania- Xtreme Zero Waste, the community-owned and run resource recovery centre.  The centre collects the town’s food waste, recycling and inorganic waste, selling what it can back to the community through its on-site shop, and finding outside markets for the rest. “There’s a mixture of community employed there- young and old.  They’re passionate about what they do. Everything is in its place”, Georgina explains.

 Contrast this with the final stop of the trip- Hampton Downs Landfill.  A 386 hectare acre site in the Waikato that receives rubbish from most of the upper North Island, including Auckland. Hampton Downs has been operating for 12 years, with another 13 to go until it reaches capacity, at 30,000,000 cubic metres of waste.  Much of the rubbish inside the landfill will stay there forever. “It was really, really huge!” exclaims Georgina. “I couldn’t believe the rubbish that actually goes in there- 200 trucks a day! It was an eye opener”, she says. She came away with lots of questions and some pretty big concerns for how our children will deal with these landfills in the future. “What will happen when that’s all full? What if people need to build houses there in the future?  It could actually be poisonous, damaging. It was horrible”.

 Returning from her trip, Georgina has mixed feelings.  “At home we collect our food waste and put it in our bokashi bin. Having seen that landfill, I wonder if it really makes a difference. It’s out of control”, says Georgina.  “I tell my family about what actually happens down there and that in time our children will be affected by this. It’s sad”, she says.

 But she’s also come back inspired.  “What’s happening in Raglan is something I could imagine happening here in our community”, believes Georgina. “I’m starting to look at the rubbish around my yard and thinking twice before putting it in the bin. I know we have people in our community who are passionate about doing things with unwanted junk”.

 “Every community in Auckland needs a place to bring their unwanted and broken things and to get inspired about what they could make out of them instead of just dumping them”, believes Georgina.  “I think everybody should open their eyes a bit wider and see what’s happening with our rubbish and what it looks like for the future of our young ones”.

 Written by Justine Skilling

Talking Rubbish

ME Family Services