Working together to tackle our waste

Manaaki Tangata is the social work branch of MEFS (ME Family Services), with a team of about 20 working directly in the schools and kura of Māngere, as well as in the wider community. The paths of Talking Rubbish and Manaaki Tangata cross in our daily mahi for the same organisation, but we’ve also worked together closely around waste over several years. Both our rōpū work to support our community and meet their needs, so there are plenty of synergies where we apply our respective lenses to the connections we have with our community and whānau.

We’ve worked with Manaaki Tangata over the past seven years, providing workshops on waste/para, the para produced in their offices, and thinking about how they could share these messages wider through their own networks and with the whānau they work with.

Waste audits we completed with Manaaki Tangata in 2018 and 2019 showed up to 60% contamination of items in the landfill bin that were compostable or recyclable. This discovery led to the Hain Ave whānau kickstarting their journey with composting, and led to reductions in waste to landfill of more than 50%!

The Manaaki Tangata offices in Hain Ave in Māngere East now have a maara kai on site, and our rōpū (especially maara kaitiaki Koia and time-trader Mona Nimmo) were involved in helping set these up in 2019, through a regenerative design process. The maara now includes composting in tyres to divert food scraps from the kitchen and paper from offices and bathrooms. Instead of going to landfill, these organics can be re-used in the maara and help Manaaki Tangata look after Papatūānuku as an example of a truly regenerative process in action. Today, some of our regular time-traders like Kusma or Veejay help to reset the maara, tend to the plants and compost system, and contribute to its maintenance, alongside members of Manaaki Tangata.

Our most recent workshop with the rōpū in January this year focused on more up-skilling about the waste systems they have on site, understanding the waste story of Māngere, why it’s important to take on board the para kore kaupapa and cut down on our waste, as well as continue to work out some of the synergies between our mahi.

A 2018 WMIF (Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund) application across MEFS, including the Manaaki Tangata and Talking Rubbish rōpū, enabled the purchasing of reusable coffee cups for staff, as well as a beeswax wraps workshop and equipment for the Manaaki Tangata rōpū.

There’s been lots of other awesome collaborative opportunities between us as well, such as Manaaki Tangata staff member Bronwen being involved with our Talking Rubbish open days making beeswax wraps. And we’ve also connected through the sharing of resources and information, such as letting Manaaki Tangata social workers know where batteries can be recycled in Māngere-Ōtāhuhu, and where to take soft plastics. This information has then been passed onto the whānau they work as well.

Our Talking Rubbish whānau, especially Georgina who handles much of the mahi through our Resource Recovery Room, work really closely with the social work rōpū who are trying to source items for whānau in need. This enables us to support those whānau and fill a need with everything from baby clothing to homewares, sports gear to shoes, or books to strollers and walking sticks. But we’re also able to divert waste from landfill and empower knowledge of para kore among the community through time-trading and an introduction to our services. This is one of the big areas of synergy between us, and where that shared support and awhi of our communities and whānau is realised.

There are some awesome champions in the rōpū who have been really empowered by our mahi together, and they’re making changes in their lives at home with their whānau and networks, as well as in the Manaaki Tangata offices. Liza, one of our amazing social workers, has really come on board. “I don’t only listen, read or watch clips on what I could do, but rather keep on practicing them personally and share them to the family/whānau/tamariki that I work with. I’m aware that it’s quite challenging to do it at the start e.g. sorting rubbish – between recyclables and non-recyclables however, with conscious mind coupled with motivation and thought that I am doing this for our children’s children – it becomes a habit, a good habit that would benefit our one and only Papatūānuku” says Liza.

Here’s what Liza does at home to reduce her waste:

1️⃣ Sorting out recyclable and non-recyclables, this includes separating the soft plastics that I take to Countdown or Pak n Save to be recycled.

2️⃣ Having a composting bin at home so I’m not throwing food waste in the red bin. We use the compost to nourish our little garden.

3️⃣ Cooking only enough food for my family to avoid waste.

4️⃣ Sharing garden produce and/or kai to others when I can.

5️⃣ Minimising shopping activities to prevent buying stuff that isn’t needed. This saves me a bit of money for my retirement. I’m conditioning myself not to buy things that I don’t need.

There are some more really awesome opportunities to be shared in the future, and we’re excited about the things we could achieve together. The champions in the rōpū are pushing great initiatives in their personal capacity in their own homes, and with those they work with, and when we think of combining our awhi and knowledge, the future seems very bright for creating a regenerative community here in Māngere-Ōtāhuhu. It’s great getting to find the synergies between our work to care for planet and people. As Liza says “I felt honoured to be part of a MEFS great team working on family’s welfare and also of our Papatūānuku. With this, my little knowledge on how I could contribute on saving Mother Earth has improved by having kōrero with Talking Rubbish team, who are dedicated to the mahi and with great love to our nature”

Liza probably summed up what we are trying to do best, saying the changes she is trying to make at home and in the community, based on what she has learnt, are “simple habits that I am trying to pass on to my children and to the community, because I believe that every little effort counts and matters. My only dream in the future is to be able to contribute more in this kaupapa because I believe that we are all responsible for climate change, hence we should also take responsibility in looking after Papatūānuku because we are part of it”.

Written by Nadine Tupp (Talking Rubbish, Waste Regeneration Facilitator, MEFS) and Liza Zapata (Manaaki Tangata, SWiS Supervisor, MEFS).