18 Apr 2024

Great Barrier Island needs more space to achieve zero waste goal

6:11 am on 18 April 2024
Aotea transfer Station, where rubbish and septic waste is sorted.

Aotea transfer Station, where rubbish and septic waste is sorted. Photo: RNZ / Luka Forman

Great Barrier Island is making progress on its zero waste goal, after its landfill reached capacity faster than expected, so all waste has to be shipped off the island.

Single-use coffee cups and public rubbish bins are a thing of the past on Aotea, and a community recycling centre was set up to reduce and reuse as much waste as possible.

But before the island gets to its zero-waste goal, Auckland Council needs to find a new space to sort its rubbish and septic waste.

Anamata resource recovery centre on Great Barrier Island has a bit of everything, including a tool shed, and upcycle shop and plenty of other "bits and bobs".

Joanne and Brett O'Reilly started the centre in 2019 and ramped up the operation in 2022, when the landfill stopped accepting waste.

The centre sorted all the kerbside recycling that would be shipped off-island and aimed to recycle as much as it could on the island.

Brett said the centre had become a real hub for locals, who stopped by to drop off their recycling, or visit the second-hand shop.

"It's very busy, so the carpark's full all of the time basically... probably about 200-300 people would come in a day."

Anamata founder Joanne O'Reilly

Anamata founder Joanne O'Reilly Photo: RNZ / Luka Forman

Joanne O'Reilly said they were always looking to expand their operation - a community composting project and reselling construction waste through their shop were two of their latest initiatives.

"So the ultimate goal is reducing waste full stop... reducing what goes off the island, but reducing what comes to the island as well."

Auckland council's goal was for the island to be zero waste by 2040.

Ben - who worked on electronics at Anamata - said he had got involved with the project because he wanted to have a positive impact on the environment.

"I was a builder back in Gisborne and when I moved to the island I wanted to do something for the environment, and I felt like this was the perfect space."

Anamata workers Ben (left) and Sol (right)

Anamata workers Ben (left) and Sol (right). Photo: RNZ / Luka Forman

Local board chair Izzy Fordham said attitudes around waste were changing on the island.

"I think we're a damn sight better at it then what we were some years ago. A lot of people are more cautious and careful and think a lot more about what goes in the bin and what goes into recycling."

There were also material changes, such as reducing single use coffee cups, and getting rid of public rubbish bins.

"I was sceptical, I'll be perfectly honest with you. I thought 'this isn't going to work, man', but it did. We had the speed wobbles in the beginning, but now it's fine. It's just accepted. You get the odd naughty pixie but that's life."

Medlands Beach on Great Barrier Island.

Medlands Beach on Great Barrier Island. Photo: RNZ / Luka Forman

The island's transfer station - on the site of the old landfill - is where waste, including that from the island's septic tanks, is processed before being sent off the island.

Parul Sood, general manager of waste at Auckland Council, said it was tossing up whether to keep the transfer station where it was, or find a new spot once the landfill's resource consent expired in 2027.

"There are a lot of elements you need to work on - Is it workable? What's the cost going to be? And what is a sustainable option for the long term?"

Sood said even if the station were to stay on its current site, a temporary one would be needed while the old landfill was capped and remediated.

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