Analysis and Findings

Before alternative recycling initiatives can be examined, it is necessary to review the current state of affairs. From the governmental failure perspective, there is evidence of political control, provider capture [NN1] and unintended outcomes of the recycling initiatives of Auckland.

4.1) Evidence of Political Control

The public organisation of recycling has barely changed since the introduction of the two-bin system. Times have changed and new evidence has suggested that the two-bin system may not be as effective as it was once thought to be and that a modified version of it may now be necessary; yet this initiative persists. The suggestion produced from local governmental non-action is one of fixation on processes that appear to be working, rather than a concern with the effective outcomes of a modified residential recycling solution.

Additionally, current recycling initiatives in Auckland City emphasise waste management as the avenue for alleviating the pressure on the environment, whilst the role of the consumption of goods has been somewhat disregarded[1]. Waste that is produced through the consumption of housing needs, and goods and services also place pressure on the environment – here retail sales plays a significant role[2] [3]. Whilst retail sales are good for the economy, increased sales mean increased consumption of natural resources and an increase in the generation of waste[4]. Thus, initiatives that consider how residents are consuming may lead to initiatives that are more environmentally friendly.

Possible Solutions:

  • Increased information made available to the public about the concept of ‘Green Purchasing’ which involves the act of businesses and the public in favouring products and services that have minimised their environmental effects through the production, usage and disposal phase[5]. The purchasing and utilisation of environmentally friendlier products and servicers increases the market for them and in turn encourages producers to improve products and processes to meet these preferences[6].
  • Increased proactive encouragement of businesses to invest in sustainable resources and initiatives[7]. In doing so, businesses will be able to more readily provide in ‘a world where consumers value sustainability’[8]. This can be achieved by using the city’s procurement to ‘lead [the] supply chain management and support’ businesses in innovating better sustainable goods and services[9].
  • The Local Government Act provides that local authorities are to promote effective and efficient waste management within their territories. In light of this, local governments should be required to review and update, as need be, existing waste management plans on a regular basis to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of residents and that of national strategies.

4.2 Evidence of Provider Capture

In being stuck in the processes of the old, councils are relying on initiatives that serve the council more so than the residents and the environment.  Local councils, such as Manukau City, have been more concerned with keeping costs low by continuing the use of a two-bin system, instead of considering more environmentally friendly initiatives, such as a three-bin system that is currently in place in  Timaru and Christchurch[10].

Possible Solutions:

  • A larger role for central government may be necessary in coordinating waste prevention and minimisation among regions[11]. Whilst, some regions ‘energetically [promote] waste reduction and recycling,’ others struggle as a result of lacking resources, knowledge and expertise[12]. The role of a central agency could be to collect information, expertise, evaluate, monitor and coordinate initiatives.
  • The Working Group on Waste Minimisation and Management have suggested a waste levy, such as a recovery and recycling rate that is applied either nationally, regional or locally, to financially fund recycling initiatives that local councils may be financially-struggling to afford[13].

4.3 Evidence of Unintended Outcomes

Unintended outcomes of policy initiatives can at times cause problems, or even illuminate policy areas that may not have been identified as being initially affected. Co-mingling paper, glass and plastic recyclable materials in kerbside collections sheds light on one of these types of issues. Whilst co-mingling of recyclable materials lowers costs for local councils, it also increases the chances that recyclables such as paper and glass may be contaminated, and thus decrease in value and marketability[14]. What this means is that only 30 to 40 per cent of these, the not contaminated portion, can then be recycled into new glass products[15]. As a result of the lacklustre supply of non-contaminated recycled glass products, winegrowers are more likely to buy new bottles which are not made from recycled glass, which thus causes wine bottling jobs to be exported to Britain[16].

While, the decision to co-mingle does reduce rates for residents and costs for councils, it hinders Auckland-based export businesses by threatening their off-shore competitiveness, and additionally hindering the local community and other businesses in regards to recycled paper and glass opportunities[17].

Possible Solutions:

  • Integrated sustainability and recycling policies have the opportunity to maximise economic, environmental and social development opportunities. For example, the Auckland Spatial Plan serves to contribute to the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Auckland City through a comprehensive and long term strategy focused on growth and development of the super city[18]. This will be an integrated approach that will replace the individual plans of the Auckland region’s eight existing council bodies[19].

Examination outside of Auckland, allows for lesson drawing and policy diffusion from elsewhere when seeking solutions for localised problems[20]. Borrowing can occur as a straightforward copying of policies, as seen with a fair trade law adopted in California, or more sophisticated and modified versions of policies can be implemented[21]. Comparative institutional analysis allows for the examination of institutional arrangements (policies, initiatives and programmes) and also allows for evaluation of appropriateness of said arrangements to the local issue[22].

4.4 Recycling in Canterbury

Canterbury’s three-bin system is a scheme where residents are allocated three bins for organic waste, rubbish and recycling materials[23]. The food and garden scraps from every home within the region is collected and used as fertiliser[24]. Instead of organic waste decomposing at landfills and releasing methane gas, the $22 million dollar composting facility in Christchurch converts 65,000 tonnes of organic waste to fertiliser every year[25]. This is a very ingenious solution to what consists of approximately half the waste of the average home[26]. Composting reduces the amount of waste that would otherwise be taken to decompose at the landfill; lessens methane gas emissions; and provides the organic matter that is highly beneficial for productive soils[27].


Possible Lessons for Auckland

  • The three-bin system allows for the separation of organic waste which for an average household is approximately half of their weekly waste. Removal of this organic waste from landfills means that there will be a decrease in methane gas release. Additionally, the organic material can be repurposed for gardening needs, in the form of fertilizer.

4.5 Recycling in Australia

Recycling in Australian states develops around the three R’s: reuse, recycle and recovery[28]. Residents in Brisbane are regularly educated about the items that they can and cannot recycle[29]. A form of public education was provided by the Brisbane City Council in Queensland in the form of magnetic stickers details what materials could be recycled and what could not be, and advising on rising milk and juice bottles[30]. Brisbane processes over 60,000 tonnes of dry recyclable materials, such as paper, cardboard, and metal cars, each year, which contributes over $20 million dollars to its economy[31].

Possible Lessons for Auckland

  • Regular public education regarding environmental concerns, particularly practical knowledge that is relevant to their weekly home-waste management can encourage higher levels of recycling. Educating also broadens knowledge regarding the types of items that can be recycled – which can help lessen the waste sent to landfills.
  • Recycling materials can cause a boost in the local economy, especially important considering that this would have otherwise been wasted resources.

[1] Auckland Council. “Environmental Well-Being.” (accessed May 10, 2012).

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Ministry of Environment

[4] Auckland Council.

[5] The Ministry of Environment

[6] Ibid.

[7] Sustainable Business Council

[8] Sustainable Business Council

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] The Ministry of Environment

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Sustainable Business Council

[15] Ibid.

[16] Sustainable Business Council

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Michael Mintrom, 209-211.

[21] Ibid., 210.

[22] Ibid., 210-221.

[23] Sustainable Business Council.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] R. K. Sinha, G. Bharambe, J. Nair, and S. Heart, “Mounting Waste – the inevitable byproduct of human activities: strategies and policies for their safe management: some experience from India and Australia.” in Progress in Waste Management Research, ed. James I. Daven and Robert N. Klein, (New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2008), 68-69 .

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.