Note – the following is part of the full report, to see the full report please click here.
Rākau Tautoko was approached by the Auckland Council Waste Solutions Team to facilitate a focus group series throughout specific geographical areas, to seek feedback on the new Pay as You Throw system that was due to be rolled out. We have been plagued by COVID and lockdowns/ traffic light restrictions, and after our focus groups at the end of 2021, we were going to wait until the restrictions were lifted. However it was decided to run an online survey and second series of focus groups online at the beginning of 2022 to complete this project instead due to the spike in Omicron cases throughout Auckland. This is the second report detailing the outcome of those focus groups.
2022 Online Survey
We expanded the online survey to include questions for feedback about the waste systems. The survey itself did not produce the depth of information that we had intended it to. There were some inconsistencies in the information within some of the submissions.
2022 Online Focus Groups
The focus groups were again the most valuable to capture feedback. We also pivoted the focus of our data collection toward education initiatives and waste reduction incentives after the recommendation had been made that the PAYT system would not be rolled out Auckland wide.
Within this series of focus groups, more than half of those within PAYT communities have seen a reduction in their landfill waste and half favor this waste system over rates. Yet there are still flaws within this system that they experience, many of which are related to the bin tags itself. A positive outcome of the PAYT system is that households that did not previously separate recyclable waste from landfill are now doing so. However, their current recycling capacity is not sufficient enough, therefore for some, recyclable items are still being placed into landfill bins or disposed of using alternative methods. There is a need for recycling capacity to be increased to maintain correct waste separation. Households within the PAYT community generally put their bins out less frequently than in non-PAYT communities.
Across all communities there were some whānau who will require a larger bin size, or an
additional bin when landfill pickup becomes fortnightly. These participants are concerned about their ability to physically store a larger amount of waste within their household for a longer period of time and the health implications that may arise. The non-PAYT participants highlighted that there is a lack of awareness within the community about the different bin size options available, the process of obtaining a bin and the absence of size labeling on the bins they currently have. Guidance from council is needed to enable people to make changes to their bins before the fortnightly pickups begin.
Although most people within all communities were supportive of the food scraps bin, and many people in non-PAYT communities thought it would help to reduce the amount of waste in their landfill bin, less than half of the PAYT households experienced this in reality. There are a number of people within all communities who don’t or won’t use the food scraps bin. These people do not believe that a compulsory food scraps bin system and an increase to household rates is fair.
Participants from all communities expressed the need for complete transparency regarding cost. They also highlighted gaps in education and the circulation of information about how to use the waste systems correctly. This is evident in the participants who have been purchasing the incorrect bin tag.
Emphasis was placed on managing packaging waste and the need for more accessible soft
plastic recycling services. Many participants hope to see waste education programmes
implemented into schools and made available to the public in ways tailored to appeal to different communities. Openness to learning was evident among most participants.
The participants of these focus group series were all in support of reducing waste. They all
understood that we needed to change our waste management systems, and reduce the amount of landfill that is being created. People acknowledged that enabling households to see the difference they are making and feel empowered to make informed decisions about waste reduction would be influential to Auckland’s waste reduction journey.
Thank you for the opportunity to lead this project and gather thoughts around the current waste system. We hope that these findings provide clear information and guidance for Auckland Council’s next steps in waste reduction.