Zero Waste Conference, Kaitaia 7-9 December 2000

    report from Jan Francis,
    Executive Officer of the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs

  • Full conference notes are available on the Zero Waste website under National Campaign — Conferences and Workshops — Zero Waste Conferences
  • Keynote Speakers:
    Tachi Kiuchi
    Robin Murray
    Gary Liss
    Over 200 people from local authorities, government departments, and community groups throughout New Zealand and overseas attended the conference. There was a great deal of enthusiasm, new ideas and passion from the participants as they outlined their hopes and dreams for a society that had zero tolerance for waste in all its forms, including humans. The emphasis on zero waste was accompanied by a call for the recognition of the job creation potential from the strategies, when the real cost of business and living was taken into the accounting process.

    Warren Snow and Stephen Tindall set the scene for the conference by noting that the drivers for the zero waste concept were savings, employment, efficiency and hope. There was a need for a whole system approach that would address the whole supply chain, while prioritising immediate gains as well as long-term aims.

    Stephen Tindall is to spend half his time from next year supporting the zero waste project. He is working with the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development and is focussing on:
    — Energy efficiency
    — Zero waste
    — Redesigning products to be recycled

    Stephen said his recipe for success was having an audacious goal, steely reserve and respect for people.

    The Minister for The Environment spoke of the government work group, which has produced a report on waste minimisation to advise the Ministry, and develop a strategy.

    Key points:
    — Purpose of preventing waste is to protect the environment
    — Waste should be charged at full cost
    — There is an economic value to waste materials
    — Proposal to appoint a lead agency
    — Establish a waste minimisation levy
    — Central government role of leadership and funding
    — Appoint a national co-ordinator of incentives to reduce waste _

    The report is available from the Ministry, or online at, or via Local Government New Zealand, who have been facilitating the discussion.

    The councils at the conference reported on the progress they had made on the zero waste target. All councils had made significant movements and reduced their waste to landfill by 10-60%. All had adopted, or were about to adopt, kerbside recycling, which had greatly reduced landfill dumping. Other key areas for the majority of councils were:
    — Education programmes - particularly in schools
    — Worm farms
    — Recycling centres which provided new employment opportunities — often community based
    — Extensive consultation, research and discussion about the waste problem
    — Organic compost plants
    — Exploring the concept of "what is a sustainable city"
    — Developing zero waste strategies
    — Appointment of staff to advance and monitor the zero waste concept and strategy
    — Resource recovery facilities
    — Zero waste parks
    — Collection of waste stream data
    — Promoting cleaner production
    — Getting the council's own house in order
    — Extending recycling pick up to rural areas
    — Business recycling pick up
    — Joint ventures with local community groups
    — Non-binding of council agendas, photocopier default set to double sided, no polythene cups

    — Reducing the size of the rubbish bag given to residents
    — Linking the environmental jobs with the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs
    — Car wreck amnesty — $10 to take the car away to recycling company to be crushed
    — Involving schools in a recycling phone book campaign which had the spinoff of binding the community
    — Recycled art show
    — Kaitaia's slash trash campaign — education and facilitating waste reduction schemes — estimated savings to Council through recycling, $87,865.

    — Obtaining commitment from the commercial sector, which contributes at least half of the total waste to landfill
    — Lack of legislation and national leadership
    — Low disposal costs
    — Fragmented approach at all levels
    — Absentee ratepayers
    — Tourists
    — Getting to 70% reduction to landfill

    The former Managing Director, now Counsellor of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Japan and Chairman of the Future 500 spoke of the challenges before the world and painted the global picture.

    1. We are the first to experience that the living conditions of the next generation will not necessarily be better than ours.
    2. We are the first to actually feel the limit of the earth
    3. In front of us, we have the biggest challenge ever to decide our future. It is not the matter of what will happen in the future, or what kind of future we will have. But rather, the future is in our hand, we can decide our future.

    New way of thinking:
    1. We must know how much is enough. Just so much and no more. The planet does not get bigger, but it can get better.
    2. Live within limits. Take only what you need, co-operate, share.
    3. Take time. Nature does not rush. Think about how long it takes to build soils, forests, mountains and coral reefs. Savour what you do.
    4. Feel the abundance and the beauty of the earth. Stop your short-sighted struggle and lift your eyes to see Earth's wonders.
    5. Understand that we cannot dominate nature. The environment is the main system, the economy is a subsystem. Earth is the mother, the society is a child.
    6. Recognise how much we owe to Planet Earth. Appreciate the gifts we have received from her. How can we repay her? No planet, no business.
    7. Know that we are a community. Listen to everyone, especially the people you do not agree with. We are co-creating the future with them. (We must listen to and understand all the stakeholders).

    What to do?

    — Cradle to cradle. Leasing, renting, less selling, sharing
    — Long-life, stable products
    — Manufacture and change key critical components only
    — Turn waste into wealth. Zero emissions: wastes = resources = lost profits. Recycle and remanufacture.
    — Recycle, repair, reuse, recover

    — Reform, review, reveal, resolve

    — Connect daily life with environment
    — Be service orientated — buy services and functions
    — Use less, make full use of it, think once, twice, three times before throwing things away
    — Reduce, return, refuse, reuse.
    — Stop doing unnecessary things. Identify what is unnecessary.

    Gary is president of Gary Liss and Associates, a consultancy that develops strategic solid waste and recycling policies, Zero Waste plans, recycling contracts and resource recovery parks. He noted that "all garbage is politics"
    -not in my backyard
    NIMTO-not in my term of office
    BANANA- build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything!

    Designing for Zero Waste
    — Provide economic incentives
    — Tax "bads" not "goods"
    — End corporate subsidies for wasting
    — Eliminate flow control for recyclables
    — Share responsibility for the products

    Gary's presentation included detailed incentives for encouraging zero waste practices from waste collection agents, waste generators and business.

    Robin is the visiting Research Associate at the Centre of Global Governance at the London School of Economics and author of Creating Wealth from Waste.

    His path to the Green Industrial Revolution began while working in Ontario, Canada with the provincial NDP government. The NDP government had a vision of community-based economic development and contracted Robin to develop the initiative.

    Robin's initial focus was on creating local jobs in the food and culture sectors, but as he travelled the province, he found that the most dynamic job creation projects were being run by the Ministry for the Environment.

    Programmes such as Green Communities were doing house-to-house energy audits and installing energy-saving equipment. These programmes were well supported by the community and have survived, creating many jobs. Strong recycling programmes were also creating local jobs.

    In England, Robin worked on alternatives to incineration. He said that a comparison of jobs in recycling compared to landfilling or incineration revealed that a wet and dry recycling system would create one new job for every 1100 people serviced. Dry recycling alone would create one new job for every 1600 people serviced. The wealth created from waste would also have positive effects on the balance of payments, and could be used to target job creation in areas of high unemployment. Some of the environmental benefits were also quantified. If England was to achieve a 70% recycling rate, it would be equivalent to removing the CO2 emissions of five million cars.

    Recycling must become upcycling — increasing the value of materials that are recovered. The focus must change from efficiency to sufficiency. Product life must be extended through reverse manufacturing and refining.

    An example of these principles at work is the concept of buying a service rather than a product. Ford Motors is introducing a system in which the customer buys mileage rather than a vehicle. This encourages the manufacturer to produce the longest-lasting vehicle possible.

    Zero waste is the way to educate people through participation in recycling, to change how firms operate, and to change government thinking. By starting with recycling you discover what cannot be recycled and this leads to changes in design. Monitoring what is at the end of the pipe is a good way to look up the pipe to see how the system works. Engaging people in recycling leads people to be interested in what happens with their waste. This evolves into participatory democracy and, ultimately, changes the way government thinks.

    A number of community groups presented their work to the conference with the key themes being:
    — Public education campaigns
    — Worm farming
    — Community companies and job creation
    — Consultation and research
    — Working partnerships with local authorities, business, schools and other agencies
    — Resource recovery parks
    — Importance of networking and sharing resources
    — Running recycling centres and rubbish collection for councils
    — Presenting proposals to councils

    The conference had other overseas speakers on specific topics for workshops The commitment of local people from around the world to developing sustainable practices in all aspects of life was evident throughout the conference. A key point was the potential for job growth in the sustainability area. The Mayors Taskforce for Jobs provides an excellent vehicle to work with zero waste councils on job creation. The enthusiasm and dedication of the people involved in this work was certainly refreshing and inspiring!
    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has”. Margaret Mead