Consultation for the Solid Waste Bylaw finishes on Sunday. Read on to understand why it matters.

As the world becomes more urban, cities need to become more liveable. Proximity helps, and walkable cities offer more opportunities for social connection and for low-carbon lifestyles. But for cities to be better places to live, we need to nurture the natural environment. Living more closely together, we will rely more on the parks, gardens and stream corridors that we retain. Yet these pockets of nature will be more fragile, fragmented as they are between hard paving and buildings.

Transporting food and products into the city and transporting waste out of the city is a poor use of energy. If all the food waste and plant waste is transported out of the city, there’s also a huge loss of nutrients and organic matter that the soil and plants in the city need. We need to see our use of resources as more of a circular process, and composting is key to that.

Last week the Auckland Council declared we have a Climate Emergency. Responding to this emergency will require a complete re-analysis of our relationship with nature. Carbon is sequestered in healthy soil, and climate change will stress our flora and fauna. The same exploitative practices that are causing climate change are stripping our ecology of health. The climate crisis is urgent, but the UN has found that:

the five direct drivers of change in nature with the largest relative global impacts so far … are, in descending order: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.

Networks of residents are practising the skills we need to address these issues. Council needs to reach out and connect with these groups, learn from them, and help spread their skills throughout the city. And often, that is exactly what Council does.

But in the area of waste, there seems to be a mismatch between mindsets. In preference to separating recycling at source and e-trike kerbside food waste pickup schemes, the Council has chosen corporate models involving truck cartage, exporting of recycling to poor countries, and industrial scale composting plants outside the city.

A new conflict has arisen over the proposed Solid Waste Bylaw, which will outlaw common and healthy composting practices, such as using seaweed from the beach, leaves from the footpath, grass clippings from the neighbour.

If people follow these new rules, the healthy social connections that happen when members of the community swap waste resources with each other for compost making will be prevented. And many people will simply be put off composting, meaning energy will be wasted as their food and garden waste is trucked out of the city.

Alternatively, if people continue with healthy composting practices, they will be doing so in defiance of the Council, so the bylaw will drive a wedge between Council and the very practitioners Council needs to learn from.

I am asking questions of Council about process and management oversight, and how the bylaw missed the input from Council’s teams who understand sustainability. Until I get those answers, though, I’d like to bring it to your attention, in case you care to submit.

Most of us have consultation burnout, so I thought I’d circulate an email from For the Love of Bees, which includes easy-submit instructions from the Auckland Compost Collective. Obviously, tailor your submission to reflect your experience and to suit your beliefs.

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The Auckland Composting Network is concerned about the wording of a new council bylaw taking effect in 2019. Submissions on this bylaw are closing in three days on the 16th of June. We would like as many supporters as possible to make a submission to ensure that local living compost hubs can continue to build momentum and establish themselves as a valuable resource for our city and very relevant climate change ready infrastructure.

Our collaborators at NZBox are also concerned about the current wording of the bylaw, they say, ‘it would completely undermine the capacity of Auckland residents, businesses and communities to compost or resource community composting initiatives. Producing quality local compost supports growing quality local food, which supports food resilient and healthy communities. Local composting hubs enable soils to sequester carbon, while reducing waste to landfill and emissions getting it there. Composting our own food waste provides local jobs, community connectivity and amazing education opportunities.’

Finn Mackesy on behalf of the Auckland Composting Network has put together a template to make a submission quick and easy – in 7 mins.

We hope you can take the time to COMPLETE A SUBMISSION, please read Finn’s guidelines below.

Kia ora Koutou,

As you may be aware Auckland Council is currently seeking submissions on the proposed Waste Management and Minimisation Bylaw 2019.

The purpose of this bylaw is to manage and minimise waste, protect the public from health and safety risks and nuisance, and to manage the use of council-controlled public places. While on the whole the proposed bylaw seems fit-for-purpose there are several sections that pose challenges to individuals and groups wanting to manage and minimise food waste at the local level. In response to the shortcomings of the proposed bylaw the Auckland Composting Network have created a templated submission response and instructions for quickly completing an online submission (see below).

We need as many Aucklanders as possible who engage in and/or support local composting to provide feedback on the proposed bylaw to ensure safe, sustainable and effective methods of household and community scale composting are acknowledged and valued. Please share this with people, organisations and networks who you think might want to make a submission to support Auckland Council in enabling communities and individuals to compost.

Submissions close on Sunday June 16. Completing the online submission process using the templated responses will take approximately 7 minutes to complete.

If you are wanting to read the full proposed Waste Management and Minimisation Bylaw 2019 follow this link

To complete the online submission process there is a combination of click responses and free text sections. To make it as easy as possible to provide feedback to the proposed bylaw supporting local composting and navigate the submission process instructions and templated responses have been provided below.

Here is a link to the online submission

Kind regards,

Finn Mackesy

on behalf of the Auckland Composting Network

INSTRUCTIONS FOR SUBMISSION

  1. Click the link above
  2. Fill in your personal details
  3. Click Next at bottom of page

Which of the following would you like to give feedback on? *

Select as many as apply

  1. Tick the first option: Requiring people to deposit and dispose of waste appropriately  
  2. Click Next at bottom of page

Proposal 1

  1. Tick Agree

Proposal 2

Clarify how a person may dispose of or discard material on premises they own or occupy. (Clause 8)ReasonWe want to make rules about the disposal of material on private premises easier to understand and to better address nuisance and safety risks from the burial and composting of material.

  1. Tick Disagree

Please tell us why

  1. Copy and paste or edit the templated response (below) in the text box provided:

“The wording in two sections within Clause 8 unnecessarily limit households’ and communities’ ability to manage and minimise organic waste safely. The following rewording is requested:

(1) A person may dispose of or discard waste by burial on premises that person occupies or owns if –

(c) the waste is food scraps or green waste from domestic activity on the same premises and the premises is in a rural area or if in an urban area the food scraps are fermented using the bokashi method first.

Add new sub-clause (e): or through any other consented composting process.

(2) A person may dispose of or discard material by composting if –

(b) Replace “at a community garden” with “as part of a community composting initiative” to ensure other effective community composting initiatives remain permissible activities. I.e. “the material is from activity on the same premises that it is composted on or the material is composted as part of a community composting initiative.”

Clause 8 also needs to ensure that the collection of materials from offsite which can make composting efforts more effective is permissible under the new bylaw. Examples of such materials include seaweed collected on the beach, leaves fallen on the footpath (which might otherwise block a public drain), the neighbour’s mown grass or hedge clippings, biochar, sheep pellets, animal manures from local farms, coffee grinds from the local cafe, compostable packaging, woodchip from an arborist, and oyster shells.

Proposal 3

  1. Tick Agree

Proposal 4

  1. Tick Agree
  2. Click Next at bottom of page

Do you have any other feedback on the proposed new Waste Management and Minimisation Bylaw 2019?

  1. Copy and paste (or edit and personalise) the templated response (below) in the text box provided:

In general I support the Proposed Waste Management and Minimisation Bylaw 2019. However, there are four areas of the proposed bylaw that are currently weak or missing – (1) there is currently no reference to the role of composting as an effective climate mitigation strategy; (2) there is no acknowledgement of the usefulness and primary function of compost as a soil amendment; (3) there is insufficient opportunities for landowners and residents to compost materials on site by safe and effective means; and (4) there needs to be recognition and endorsement of community composting initiatives beyond community gardens as effective, sustainable and pro-social means of managing and minimising waste.I request the following additional additions and changes to the proposed Proposed Waste Management and Minimisation Bylaw 2019 to ensure that all effective biological composting methods and community composting initiatives are recognised and endorsed under the new bylaw.

Clause 4      Purpose(1) The purpose of this bylaw is to manage and minimise waste, protect the public from health and safety risks and nuisance, and to manage the use of council-controlled public places by –

add (f) minimising the harm from greenhouse gas emissions produced by waste.

Clause 5      InterpretationAnaerobic digestion means an energy generation process produced through the anaerobic digestion of organic matter. This is not a composting operation unless the resultant sludge and digestate are land applied.  

Compost means the byproduct of the biological processing of organic material into a form capable of land application.

Composting means the activity of creating nutrient-rich fertiliser and organic matter from food scraps, green waste or both and to avoid doubt, includes worm farms and other biological means of converting organic waste materials into nutrient-rich fertiliser and organic matter. It includes diverting organic matter from landfill and converting it through biological processes into soil building amendments.

This addition will ensure that all effective composting techniques and biological processes are explicitly included under the bylaw (E.g. Effective Microorganisms (EM) and Black Soldier Fly (BSF) farming). It also ensures that new and promising biological means of processing food scraps can be tested and developed under the bylaw.

Add a definition for Organic Matter – material that breaks down in anaerobic conditions to produce methane, specifically paper, wood, greenwaste, food scraps, cardboard, sludges and biosolids

Clause 12     Operators of waste management and resource recovery facilities

Definition of a resource recovery facility needs to include an explicit purpose of diverting material from landfill. It also needs needs to include community composting operations for the bylaw to effectively recognise and value the role of community composting initiatives and facilities.

Add to Clause 1.b.i. “for the purpose of diverting materials from landfill, recovering components…”

Add to Clause 1.b.ii. in the definition of a resource recovery facility …“to avoid doubt, includes a commercial or community composting operation…”

  1. Click Next at bottom of page
  2. Complete the Tell us about your experience section
  3. Click Finish

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22 comments

  1. Worthwhile cause Heidi.
    Food waste is a very important issue as it is also one of the biggest sources of emissions. In the city environment it is harder for most people to compost etc due to not having land for it so they either chuck it in the rubbish or down the insinkerator.

    1. Thanks. Time is a factor, too. The community initiatives are superb because the time doesn’t seem wasted when you’re doing it with friends.

  2. Small scale composting is a luxury recreational activity. It doesn’t scale up and is at odds with good urban design. Large scale industrial composting is actually superior in a number of ways.

    On-premises composting is only a viable option for those who not only own their own home but have the space on their section for a compost pile. Community garden projects can also do composting but getting involved in one of those still requires the sort of commitment to the area that is only conferred by home ownership. And if you got your organic waste to the community garden by driving it there, did you really help the environment?

    The time investment in composting (as with other garden activities) isn’t huge but it’s still too much when you’re time-poor. I couldn’t fit it in around work and I don’t even have any family commitments. Do people in full time employment with kids have time to maintain compost piles?

    We all agree that urban sprawl is harmful to the environment in a number of ways. If we want to accommodate more people in our cities without further sprawl then we have to develop more dense housing. Housing with less room for activities like composting.

    Humans build cities to reap the agglomeration benefits of having large numbers of people close together. Economies of scale make providing infrastructure and services much cheaper (including requiring less labour and a lower carbon footprint). Services like organic waste collection and large scale processing facilities.

    Composting at an industrial scale is more productive, less wasteful and should result in a higher quality product on average. Specialisation and trade means rather than have a million amateurs composting individually we can have a few experts composting on behalf of a million amateurs. Industrial composting facilities can also invest in the processing steps necessary to break down things that can’t be composted at home.

    I don’t want to diminish the satisfaction people get from creating their own compost, growing their own vegetables etc. But it’s a hobby, not a solution to the environmental crisis that we face.

    1. The scale that creates the best compost is probably where several households to perhaps 100 households contribute. This scale also builds the best social connections and allows people to teach each other.

      Beyond that, natural processes aren’t scalable up to industrial levels.

      Firstly, because quality compost is full of bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, protozoa, rotifers and macroorganisms like worms. There is no industrial scale compost product that includes these organisms. The quality of commercial compost doesn’t even approach true compost; it’s not something I would ever buy. I know some gardeners who, as an experiment, have taken some commercial compost, wetted it, and tried to inoculate it with organisms from real compost, but the result was uninspiring and not worth the hassle.

      Secondly, because making compost locally is important from a social point of view. It brings communities together. I have long friendships with people who stopped to talk to me when I was picking up leaves on the footpath. I’m connected with people I met when I was picking up seaweed. It’s one of those social bridges. It’s also satisfying and rewarding, not as a luxury hobby, but as a psychologically important process of feeling that we are part of nature, that we can control our waste, that life does come from death, and there is hope.

      Thirdly, because we don’t need all those trucks making our streets dangerous and wasting energy. New Zealand has very high carbon emissions from our waste sector by international standards already. The groups that applied to run kerbside ebike pick up schemes worked out the energy savings from doing it locally – they were significant.

      Fourthly, some cities with kerbside food waste pickup schemes have ceased the schemes. The significant drop in home composting the schemes caused was initially considered a necessary evil of managing to collect more overall food waste. However, the cities realised that political support for the other climate change measures the administration needs to make comes from people who are connected with nature and the carbon cycle through composting. Dropping the kerbside pickup schemes was a decision taken to try to rebuild that understanding and knowledge, and thus political will for climate change measures.

      If you looked into the work that people are doing, you’d find that community compost initiatives overcome the problems of not having much garden space. People have apartment balcony worm farms and bokashi units. Each street could have a set of hot compost bins to take food waste along with garden waste and other materials.

      Trying to scale natural processes up to industrial levels is actually the mindset that has brought our planet to the ecological crisis it has. There’s a better way, and it’s not going to appeal to people who think there are always benefits in scaling up.

      Composting isn’t a luxury. Being disconnected from the ecological base that supports us is a luxury – but not one we’ll be able to ‘enjoy’ for much longer.

      1. Heidi I don’t doubt that your boutique handcrafted compost is much better than what you can buy from garden centres. But a lot of people’s approach to compost involves a big pile of grass clippings with the odd bowl of food scraps. And that’s if they have the space and free time to worry about compost at all.

        I’m not convinced that the solution that works for you as an individual is scalable to a large part of the population. A lot of people just can’t spare the time.

        1. Yes, people’s time availability is important. I’m acutely aware of this. One of the main NIMBY arguments against intensification that I come across in the green community is that there’s some kind of utopia at low density suburb levels where the low density can be justified on the basis that everyone will be involved with composting and food growing. Yet this isn’t the lifestyle most people are choosing to live now, so it’s not a helpful part of a transition.

          It’s a leap of faith to continue with sprawl and all its transport impacts on the basis that people ‘will have to learn how to grow food at some stage’. Right now, we need to work towards a compact city because evidence is clear that it’s the most rational way to a low-carbon city.

          Volunteers are in short supply in all sectors. There aren’t enough people stepping forward to look after the natural places we have. Bringing in more housing, at lower prices, so young people can afford to live in the more central suburbs, is necessary for community health, and to maintain community spaces (whether through rates from more people, or volunteer effort.)

          Local composting can involve householders’ time. But it doesn’t have to. What you’ve forgotten is that multiple community groups developed plans for local composting. These plans didn’t cost any more than what we will be paying in the upcoming targeted rate for the truck-it-out-of-town option Council chose. And they didn’t involve volunteer time.

          That Council chose to ignore these initiatives in favour of a one-size-fits-all approach that is worse for the climate didn’t surprise me. As with the recycling, any operator setting up plant to process the material needs to invest heavily. They need to be guaranteed an amount of material, and penalties are established if Council doesn’t meet those minimum volumes.

          You don’t have to look far overseas to find dodgy examples where councils end up encouraging wasteful practices so that the council is not fined by the recycling plant for providing too little recycling material.

          By rewriting this bylaw, Council can demonstrate that it was simply poorly written, and not intentionally designed to provide them with the levers to adjust home composting rates if necessary, so that they can meet their minimum food waste materials requirements.

      2. My compost is super food for plants unfortunately I am not getting it hot enough and it grows real good weeds as well. But anyway I just keep weeding so it works out okay and I throw the weeds back in the compost so a circular composting system and yes its much more fertile than the brought stuff.

  3. Very surprised this is even an issue council want to try and ‘manage’.

    The status quo is surely perfectly fine.

    I have a compost heap, and enjoy spending time gardening.

    For those who don’t have this interest, or time, or for whatever other reason, there are green bins and garden waste services as well as community composting options.

    In any case, why legislate options away? Why reduce choice when more choice creates more opportunity for more people to engage with waste reduction in ways which suit them best?

  4. Thank you for this Heidi; I was not aware of it and would not have made submissions if not for your post. There was a final question:
    Do you have any other feedback on the amendments to the Trading and Events in Public Places Bylaw 2015?
    I have been on a 6 year campaign to try and get the Waste Management team to ensure that the footpaths are left clear of containers without success. I made submissions on the last Waste Management changes to that effect and was told by the chair that this was an operational matter and that it was not a basis for submission. However she did connect me to the Team (in October 2018) and that seemed to initially try to change the culture but it has not been effective, at least not in our area.
    The winter is harder in our area when the grass becomes soggy and it makes the pushing of prams drains the batteries of mobility scooters. I have submitted before an after pictures to the “Team” on the basis that the collectors were returning bins to where the residents were leaving them. The whole problem is becoming very onerous. it seems that this is much harder than I thought it should be and I wonder if anyone else is trying to do the same thing.
    Another example of obstructing the footpath is the area of street cafe culture in Newmarket where billboards and chairs + tables make pushing a pram walking with sticks or mobility scooter even just walking is hazardous when the pavements are busy. The area around the corner of the intersection of Remuera Rd and Nuffield St is particularly bad.
    Does a pedestrian have any rights to remove these obstacles?

    1. Really good points, Ted.

      A pedestrian has a right to be safe. And high level strategy documents lay out the philosophy for why funding to keep them safe needs to be provided by motorists, who are providing the danger. Currently the driving mode takes the lions’ share of the space, so everything else: walking, cycling, being, playing, socialising, rubbish removal, is shoved onto tiny footpaths.

      Auckland Council has directed Auckland Transport to reallocate road space.

      And then undermines Auckland Transport when they try to do so, by supporting locals who don’t want any changes.

      Basically, my advice is: don’t fall for the “divide and conquer” trick. This isn’t about people walking vs rubbish bins, or people walking vs people enjoying their streets together. Just like the whole escooter thing wasn’t about people walking vs people scootering.

      This is about the hogging of space by the least space efficient mode: driving.

      It’s a fantastic point to bring up in the submission – I will too. The other thing that happens when Council allows events in public places is driving all over parks and school fields to provide parking. Some of this illegal, too: most schools have consent to use their fields for parking for their own events, not as a fundraiser when there’s an event nearby. The effect on kids is that they have squashed, unhealthy soil on their school fields, that are deteriorating year after year… I might bring that up, too.

      1. LogarithmicBear you seem to miss the point. Many of us want to see a complete redesign of urban composting which invests in decentralised local compost hubs. Done properly and invested in properly these would offer the city a completely different opportunity . A local compost system regards food scraps and other materials as critical local soil-building resource and not a waste that needs to be taken away. This kind of decentralised scaled-out system would support other declared council objectives that will help our city become climate change ready. A week after declaring a climate change emergency it is a madness to even be considering a bylaw like this that will serve securing food scraps for a 20 year contract for the current proposed centralised system. This centralised system will support a few business, not many local communities..it will likely still take much of the material to landfill and not help us build carbon sequestering spaces that offer 10 other get climate change ready values. FTLOB is currently collecting data with other local composters on a credible scaled-out system. This bylaw feels like it is designed to pip this research at the post and firm up business opportunities for a few big players.

    2. Ted, I’m in the middle of doing my submission now. I put:

      Clause 11 – You need a new clause 11 (2) (d) ensure the bins do not obstruct people in wheelchairs, on bikes, scooters, pushing prams, or just walking.

      Thanks for raising it.

      1. I also put:

        19 (1) (f) I would like to see a wholescale change in how the waste pickup systems work. The current process means people walking around wheelie bins nearly get hit by cars. I’ve seen this happen when I’ve been in a bus going fast in a kerbside lane and people walking together on a skinny footpath step out to avoid a wheelie bin.

        Council has allowed the street environment to become deficient over the last few decades. Given this will take decades to fix, Council needs to find another way to collect waste that doesn’t involve people being put in more danger. We already have the 2nd most dangerous city for people walking out of 31 OECD countries studied. Council needs to take what steps it can – and these wheelie bins are part of the problem.

        1. Heidi could I have a chat with you about the various composting schemes you have looked into? I’m wanting to start something in my community and need to start looking into what works and what doesn’t.

  5. There’s so much to comment about and thanks Heidi for putting many things Community right.
    For now I would like to say two things:
    1. Regardless of the motivation and time committment household or street composting takes – there should not be a bylaw to prevent this now and forever! I accept that there will be people who have not yet understood or tried to or don’t want to that connection to nature doesn’t just happen through an app, a video or on the couch watching something – so yes, some food resource will be dealt with by a more commercial way – the question is, how big does this operation have to be, could there be local jobs for local people in local facilities?
    2. I have no health risk with my home or community made compost, I basically don’t hesitate to put my fingers in my mouth after handling it. The big style commercial compost is dead on one hand side as Heidi explained – on the other, bad side it harbours extremely dangerous bacteria, super bugs just like sterile hospitals do. Where all the life is killed the bad life seems to establish faster! Read the labels of ANY bag of soil/compost you can buy and it warns you of Legionnaire’s Disease! It’s just not possible to produce a good quality product if you are a mass producer.
    It’s the Michelin chef versus Nestle/Heinz-Warriors – which food do you prefer for your family?

    1. Heidi, I note in the Devonport Flagstaff, 14 June at p5 that the commercial green recycling centre in Devonport is at risk of closure due to financial losses. Sure the centre handles more than green waste,but this is the majority of what they handle.
      It seems that local composting is critical if the commercial centres can’t make a go of it, otherwise all this product might end up in land fill.

  6. Another clause I commented on was the one about events:

    Clause 15 – For medium to large events, these Waste Management and Minimisation plans must require:

    The replacement of any “disposable” consumable items (eg plates) with compostable items or if they aren’t available, with “recyclable” items.
    The employment of people to ensure that the correct bins are used.
    The collection of compostable material such as compostable plates and food scraps.

    It is not equitable that the green community is having to volunteer time to provide these facilities and services.

  7. One problem with community (recycling, compost, hub, etc) schemes is that they never receive nearly as much money for the same operation as if they were a commercial business – they are expected to run off the smell of the rag that lies besides the oily rag (opportunity to invent a sustainable saying here please) with volunteers, trusts and incorporated societies and only a few people down the track are paid.
    Would they (financially) resource the community groups bidding for these contracts as well as they would contract a business then we would see a lot more growth in this community space.
    The amount of time and effort that goes into these community projects is often burning out their volunteer members faster than they realise themselves – in particular where they have to “work with” council which more likely is a tag line for “council working against them”. (And yes I can name quite a few projects as I have tried to sustain them for years and given up one by one).

    1. So true. And the sorts of projects that community groups organise are ones that involve change from the status quo. It’s seeing the unmet need for change that brings the community group together. Yet because it’s change, the risk-averse Council applies rules against the project even when they don’t apply the same rules against commonplace practices.

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