Xtreme Zero Waste looking to the future of waste

The team at Xtreme Zero Waste are preparing for the bright future of zero waste one recyclable at a time.

There’s been a lot of changes recently, including the Tuesday to Friday kerbside collections and the new build (constructed by XZW team) which has increased the size of Kaahu’s Nest, streamlined the traffic flow and the recyclables drop off point at the Resource Recovery Centre.

The build itself was done by XZW staff and Rick says the exercise was a combination of team-building and upskilling the team.

Partly these changes are in response to Raglan’s growth and the recent increase in houses, residents, visitors and the future substantial housing developments, Xtreme Zero Waste relationship manager and founding member Rick Thorpe says. 

But, more importantly it’s about future-proofing XZW for exciting developments in the way the organisation will continue to ethically manage Whaingaroa’s recyclables and waste.

“If we do our job well, we won’t be here,” he laughs. “In the meantime, we want to turn a negative into a positive and add value to waste systems, and help people enjoy an income from it (waste management).”

The community enterprise has always had at it’s heart the model of zero waste and Rick says this will continue to be the ultimate goal but the team can’t ignore the mountain of packaging thrust upon consumers by manufacturers.

The new recyclable collection point has been designed to fit a container deposit system that Rick believes will be legislated by government in the next few years.

New Zealand is one of the few countries that has not introduced container deposit systems, Rick says, which has proven to be the most effective waste collection system worldwide with 70 percent to almost 100 percent of all drink containers returned for recycling.

“Envision did a cost-benefit analysis for container deposit systems and found 40,000 jobs would be created around New Zealand. Ninety percent of New Zealand’s mayors want this. Everyone wants this except the packaging companies,” he says.

There’s been a lot of public concern about the clamp down of Chinese markets taking the world’s recyclables and global waste management companies using ill-equipped countries like Malaysia and Vietnam as dumping grounds.

But Rick says the writing has been on the wall for many years and New Zealand’s largest waste management companies have buried their head in the sand keeping their eye solely on profit margins.

“They knew this was happening. We should have been setting up recyclable processing and manufacturing in New Zealand years ago.”

Xtreme’s recyclable collection and handling methods mean they are able to send most of their recyclables to a variety of markets mostly within New Zealand.

Still, in the current state of commodities markets, Xtreme make a loss on nearly all their recyclables and the organisation fluctuates each year between making a loss, a small profit or breaking even.  Fortunately, the not-for-profit and lean business model at Xtreme has enabled them to subsidise these losses from its other areas of income.

Recyclable processing and manufacturing is something the Xtreme team is keen to provide locally and the long-term goal is to set up a recyclable processing and manufacturing system on site at XZW 

Rick is excited about the potential to develop locally processed and manufactured fun products such as skateboard decks from Whaingaora’s recyclables.

They are also working with Hamilton’s Convex Innovative Packaging managing director Owen Embling to turn number two plastics into plastic film that could be used to make pre-paid plastic bags.

However, Rick says, it will be the consumer who determines how waste management enterprises like Xtreme will need to respond to Raglan’s waste dilemmas.

He knows of locals – including a family of four – who make a conscious effort to create less waste and are down to one pre-paid yellow bag a month.

“That sort of justifies us making the bags and eventually people will get to the point where they don’t need them.”

And Rick’s keen to encourage people to buy reusable, buy local, buy quality and buy in bulk.

“We mustn’t lose sight of the need to wean ourselves off single-use plastics and replace them with multiple-use alternatives and where necessary replace them with plant-based plastics.”

For the time being, XZW will continue finding innovative solutions to Whaingaroa’s waste on their journey to a zero waste Whaingaroa.

Check out keepitraglan.wixsite.com/plasticfreeraglan/compostablepackaging for a catalogue and guide on compostables that will break down in Xtreme Zero Waste’s hot compost unit.

Janine Jackson