27 Jul 2021

Smelly issue: Two different rubbish systems divide Auckland

From Checkpoint, 5:26 pm on 27 July 2021

It has been more than 10 years since Auckland became a super city but there is one smelly issue that still divides the region.

It is rubbish collection. Residents in several pockets of the city have to buy bin tags for collection day, the rest do not.

In Waitākere, on the North Shore, in Papakura and in Franklin there is an extra step. Residents need to buy a bin tag and stick it onto the handle before wheeling it out to the kerb.

On the North Shore, a 120-litre bin requires an orange tag, which costs $4.10. A smaller 80l bin costs $2.80 for a blue tag and for the 240l it costs $5.90 for a green tag. No tag means no bin collection.

People in 'bin tag zone' need to buy a new tag for their bin collection each week.

That means going to the local store, library, service centre or supermarket.

A quick trip over the Harbour Bridge and bins do not need any tags. Aucklanders in the central area pay a flat rate on their rates bill, based on the size of the bin.

On the North Shore Jared and Sandeep are busy with the morning rubbish pick up. Jared's job is to run ahead of the truck ripping the tags off the bins, while Sandeep follows.

If it is the wrong colour - it gets stickered by Jared.

"These are the stickers that we put on the bins, so we leave the bin and carry on to the next one," he told Checkpoint.

It is an extra step for him on bin collection day but he takes it in his stride.

Janine lives in the area. She said the bin tag system had to go. "I just think it's useless, a waste of time. If you forget, you've got to go to the supermarket late on a Sunday and get the tag. If you forget in the morning you've got your bin for a week."

Northcote local Jonathan Ericson boycots the sticker system in favour of buying bags. "We like the discipline of controlling the process but we actually use the yellow bags instead because you don't have to have a sticker on those."

He said the tags are an extra step but said it makes people think twice about their waste.

"I don't mind a little bit of nuisance value when it's getting us to think more about whether we should throw lots of rubbish out every week."

Why are there still two systems operating in one city?

General manager for waste solutions at Auckland Council Parul Sood agrees one system would be better.

"Definitely the intention is to have one system. Historically we had the seven cities and they all had different ways of doing things.

"We've actually moved from bags in some areas to bins all over the city so we are making progress, but the way you pay for things still has to be sorted out."

Checkpoint tallied up the costs, and assuming one puts the bin out every week, bin tags work out to be more expensive.

If people put a 120l bin out every week, they are paying $63 more a year.

If people put a 240l bin out every week, they are paying $86 more a year.

But Parul Sood said the tag system makes people more conscious of their waste.

"It's a cost, so it's putting it in your mind that's a cost I need to think about. Can I actually divert the waste that's in the bin rather than putting it out for collection?"

"We are looking at the evidence to tell us whether the system is currently achieving what it's supposed to achieve and that is something that we will take back to our politicians, elected members, to see whether we need to go towards rates, keep what we've got or go to a user-based model for the entire region."

There is no clear indication when they will make a decision.

"If we are to change what we are doing that will have to go out for consultation [to] ask Aucklanders what would they prefer. That should come out with the Auckland Plan next year."