IMO* Green waste

My Sunday mornings with Tony Murrell on Radio Live’s Home and Garden Show have moved to the more civilised hour of 7.45am. This was just as well this morning with our land line down. Because we live in a mobile black spot, I headed out across the property under an umbrella (it was spitting), to the point where I know I can get at least one and sometimes two bars on my mobile phone. I was committed to speak on my concern of the week – green waste and the ubiquitous wheelie bins.

“Go forth and multiply” – the rise and rise of the wheelie bin

When the directive came to “go forth and multiply”, I cannot think that it was ever meant to apply to wheelie bins. But that is the case. We live in the country and for years we took responsibility for our own waste disposal. When the local council extended rubbish collection to many rural areas, it was undoubtedly convenient but it came with a hefty price tag. We now have a wheelie bin for recyclables and an inconveniently shaped bin for glass which needs to be transferred to a wheelbarrow to transport it out to the roadside. But wait, there is to be more. Plans are afoot for another wheelie bin to take the non-recyclable rubbish, another for green waste and I am not sure where the plans are to give us a fifth small bin to sit upon the kitchen bench to take the green waste before we transfer it out to the wheelie bin.  Plastic, plastic and more plastic.

As I said, we live in the country. Everybody I know who lives in the country has some sort of composting system. There is no need to charge us for removing our green waste and increasing its carbon footprint further by transporting it to a central depot.

Wheelie bins of London. I have seen British gardening shows showing strategies for concealing your wheelie bins in little enclosures with “living roofs”

What worries me the most is that this new drive to collect everything from the gate actually fosters an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. And these great thunking wheelie bins encourage people to put yet more rubbish out. Councils such as ours can espouse “zero waste by 2040” sentiments all they like, but these are aspirational only when their actions are geared to hoping residents will sort their rubbish at home before they wheel it out for collection. It is still predicated on ratepayers paying a levy for somebody else to cart away their rubbish and to deal with it. The feel good factor without actually achieving much at all.

Wheelie bins of Coogee to the right

Our Sydney daughter lives in a third floor apartment and has a worm farm. She alerted me to Compost Revolution, an organisation that works with Sydney councils to encourage residents to take responsibility for their own green waste and to deal with it at home. Attend a two hour course and you get either a free or heavily subsidised composting option – Bokashi, worm farm or bin, whichever is best suited to your circumstances. That is a constructive model that gets ‘buy-in’ from participants and changes long term behaviour. Green waste can account for around half of household waste. So it is a huge reduction in volume if it can be dealt with on the home site and a big reduction in carbon footprint if it is not being carted away for recycling. It is interesting that Compost Revolution appears to have worked on solutions applicable to high density urban living.

Centralised waste collection in Tivoli

I was impressed by the European models I saw of centralised collection points where people sorted to the appropriate bins as they dropped off their rubbish. In a densely populated, old town like Tivoli, individual household collection would be near impossible. These collection points were emptied each day and the area swept. There was nothing offensive about them, even in very hot weather. Everything about this model encourages a reduction in volume and individual responsibility.

Rural waste collection in Camembert, France

Rubbish disposal, New Zild style, near where I live. 

In France near Camembert was this smart and tidy collection point for community refuse. It remained tidy for the several days we stayed nearby. Sometimes I despair at home. Prior to the collection of our refuse from the gate, Council tried a local collection point down the road from us. People treated it like a roadside tip. Literally. It was revolting. Don’t worry about how the system works. Just hiff your rubbish out from your vehicle whenever you want. Sometimes we seem so backward and uncivilised in this country I love and never more so than on household rubbish. Out of sight, out of mind.

Don’t, just don’t pile up your lawn clippings around the street trees. This is likely to kill them. Mount Eden, Auckland

At the very least, next time you replace your lawnmower, get a mulcher mower. It chomps the clippings so finely that they reintegrate with the turf. This means you do not need to collect them and then find some means of disposing of them. It also means you never have to feed your lawn because you are not stripping all the nutrients off. And look at other ways you can deal with the majority of your green waste on site rather than paying somebody else to remove it and to take responsibility for your waste. It matters.

Should you wish to do a bit of DIY compost, I have in the past posted step by step instructions on


*IMO – in my opinion. The Radio Live Home and Garden Show opinion pieces each Sunday may translate to a new series of posts here.

4 thoughts on “IMO* Green waste

  1. Marion Ogier

    Challenging post, especially to someone in suburban Christchurch, which has the 3 bin system and the option of renting an even bigger green bin. I do compost a bit but not as much as I could probably. I know what happens to my green bin as we occasionally take a trailer to the nearest recycling centre and you can see the composting in action. (Totally irrelevant but when we went earlier this year the compost heaps had their own resident peacock strutting about). I can see the value of trying different methods and encouraging self responsibility. As for flytipping it’s a curse here in Christchurch too. Mattresses and stuff on the street and worse in the red zone.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Maybe we are being a bit purist, but to regularly put one’s green waste out at the gate where it is collected by a large truck and transported to a central depot where more fossil fuel is used to convert it to compost which people then drive to buy does not seem a sustainable long term option to us! And I think bins actually encourage many people to dump more, not less.

  2. John Kingdon

    I often think more waste is created here by the council changing its recycling scheme every couple of years. A while back we were all given big wheelie bins. A year later the council decided to switch back to using black sacks. We were told to take the wheelie bins to the local recycling centre and chuck them in the non-recyclable skip. Apparently wrong plastic to recycle. A couple of years ago we were all given heavy woven blue sacks to use for kerbside recycling of tins and plastics. This year the scheme changed again and we were all given brand spanking new blue sacks. The only difference was that they were printed with the recycling company’s logo. Otherwise same colour, same size. Many of us thought we’d carry on using the old blue sacks (they were still in fine condition) and keep the new ones until the old wore out. Seems this isn’t allowed. The old sacks would not be emptied. We had to use the new ones. Guess where the old ones ended up.

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