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  • Writer's pictureDr. Sarah Redmond

The Multiplier Effect


black and white image of various waste bins


The multiplier effect of Waste Minimisation is an ongoing learning curve for us. We have a starting point, our houses that have been diverted from being demolished and becoming landfill. That's a good 25 tonnes of "not waste" right there. Watching these worn out houses be returned to the state of being warm and attractive homes is deeply satisfying, as is watching the progress the rangatahi make on site as they become more and more competent at responding to the needs of the house as their skills and understanding develop.


Seeing beautiful old timber rescued from one house being used as flooring in another house is also deeply satisfying. Taking metal in for scrap, using off-cuts to make beautiful and practical household items such as breadboards and tables is good for the soul, as the tired old wood is planed, sanded and crafted into beautiful new objects that smell and feel like they have a bit of magic in them.


However, on site there are also conundrums about what to do with the waste that is not easily managed. We have old wall linings with paint coatings of which we don't know the composition, we have very old carpets and curtains and the packaging that comes with pretty much anything we buy. We also have a busy site with around 20 people a day eating, drinking and working. So we have food waste (mostly worm bin and compost), we have food wrappers, tea bags, milk cartons, all the plastic from things like toilet paper wrappers and bread bags. We have things that break which can't be fixed, windows and fireplaces that are now obsolete and broken, scratched and worn safety glasses and helmets which we can no longer use.


We are trying some new things - we are using the old carpet as weed matting to try and keep down some of the weeds on what is a very large site, we've added a compost bin to our worm farms and Willie takes the scrap metal and sells after which he then shouts the students to lunch and some unwinding at the driving range. We try to sell things that we can't use and we use second hand as much as possible, including all our office furniture, BBQs and small kitchen appliances.


We have some big ticks on our waste minimisation journey. We also have waste that is challenging to manage, a combination of construction waste and the waste generated by having a lot of people on site, all who need to be kept safe, fed and hydrated. We have been lucky enough to have Mark Roberts from Auckland Council Waste Minimisation show us other construction sites that are successfully minimising their waste. That has given us great insight into what we can do well and where we need to think a bit harder as well as inform ourselves more. Given the diversity of waste generated on a construction site there isn't any one solution. Rather it is a number of responses and processes that help reduce waste. Sometimes it is overwhelming again because of the diversity of waste on site. But we are on this journey and each step helps us get to where we want to be…so we will keep on stepping!


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