Waste not

Lisa Eve

Lisa Eve is a waste management consultant at Eunomia Research and Consulting. We talk about her background – how she became a specialist in waste, and why it is so important.

Helping people to make a real difference in their lives.

The oil industry successfully found a way to get rid of waste portions of the oil streams…wildly successful so that now we’re totally unable to live without plastic

It’s too late to fix packaging at the consumer end, we need to fix at the source…extended producer responsibility

We’re not good at seeing waste as our problem – it’s someone else’s crisis, “they” should fix it.


If it is not sustainable from a community angle – social justice etc – then environmental sustainability is meaningless

In New Zealand pretty much everything goes to landfill, and biodegradable is really bad in landfill – we have to work on that.

Super-power: feminist warrior

Activist: Yes, Trying to change people’s ideas and perceptions – but to do that you have to be prepared to change your own.

Start conversations

Try and educate yourself – not by reading facebook.

Be positive – surround yourself with people.

design fashion waste

Zero-waste textile practitioner

Fiona Clements of Senorita Awesumo and Sustainable Dunedin City describes the many challenges of the clothing industry – not least of these that it is a business model that relies on changing fashions. She describes social injustice, water use, manufacturers’ waste (call it what it is – wasted resource). But rather than complaining, she has taken a positive approach to activism – making a difference through her own business and leadership in not-for-profit community sewing room Stitch Kitchen.

design education food waste

Food systems whisperer

Finn Boyle variously describes himself as a compost nerd”, a “food philosophy explorer” and a “yeast whisperer”. Realising the question of “what am I eating?” took him down a rabbit hole, Finn saw that he needed to change the world and that his lever was food systems design. He embarked on a food design degree which eventually saw him a grand tour of compost. Amongst several other activities, he is now working to reduce Otago Polytechnic’s organic waste. We talk about making disruption attractive.

Read more on Finn’s work on taking a thriving approach to Otago Polytechnic’s organic waste system (pdf)

food waste

Household as a place of change

Sally Geislar

The household is a place where change can happen, a place where change needs to happen.

Sally Geislar is the Founding Director of the Food Works Lab at the University of California Irvine. She is a Doctoral Candidate in Planning, Policy, and Design in the School of Social Ecology. Sally currently manages three funded projects on local food and food waste systems. Her primary research examines the role of household behaviour in successful kerbside organics collection programmes.

Talking points

I’m really interested in people, and how people have created the world we live in, but how at the same time it seems like it has always been this way.

The world is just the result of millions and millions of decisions, and realising that if there’s something messed up about it, we can make different decisions.

Daunting on one hand because there there were some many decisions, with momentum behind them, but at the same time hopeful because we’re humans making decisions and we can start to make different ones.

So my work is on those everyday behaviours…households.

If we could get all those people who are already on board with sustainability to bring their practices in line with their ideals, we would already be on a better track.

I’m interested in consumption, broadly speaking, and I’ve found waste to be a really interesting lens on that to understand the values of a culture.

Food waste…part of the momentum of previous decisions

Farmers markets…put us face to face with the humans who are producing our food.

Relationships that are more than economic

Food waste, at 22%, is the largest component of all the materials going to landfill.

Organic materials – food waste and yard waste – generate a quarter of the country’s methane emissions.

But we can’t just make a system and expect that everyone is going to fall right into place….there’s a human element to the technological solution.

How does kerbside collection affect households? Do people change their practices within the home?

For some people it will be “just build it and they will separate”, for others it will be a totally foreign thing.

For some who are pro-environmental in taking shorter showers or not watering their lawn, food waste can pose a psychological barrier of ick factor

But it is the same garbage you were making before, it is just in a different bin.

The household as a unit of analysis.

The household as a place where change can happen, a place where change needs to happen.

Little things…but don’t give up on the other things.

Culture has to change, along with the built environment.

Study…to what extent does culture shift, just by having changes in the built environment.

Norms change…in the 70s you could smoke on a aeroplane…now its unthinkable…if we play our cards right we might see that same sort of shift with foodwaste…the idea of wasting food by throwing it in a landfill will be unthinkable.

The kerbside bins are a powerful communication of norms, of change in behaviour in the home.

Sustainability…we live in a very complex world. The (Brundtland definition)…how will we know what needs they’re going to have in an unimaginable future.

For me it is about needs and systems being cyclical. A lot of our systems are linear and end in the landfill.

The more systems that we can bring back into the cycle , so that those materials that are waste from one system are raw materials for another…the closer we’ll be to sustainability – but it’s really not a destination, it’s a process.

(Success) Clear vision of how I can combine my passion and my career.

Growing up, the opportunity explore and to have un-manufactured experiences.

(Activist) An important question, one which environmental scholars are confronted with regularly. Our work does take a normative stance, of how the world should be, or at least how it shouldn’t be. To the extent that I am trying to change the way that policies are implemented, and developed, and change the hearts and minds of the people that are parts of those systems who are influenced by those policies, way that they react to those policies, engage with the goals of those policies, then in some ways I am an activist, but I think I’m a scholar first. There’s a certain level of data, rigour and truth-seeking that isn’t necessarily absent in the activist’s world but is at the heart of the scholar world. And that’s where I start from, with the goal of making the world a better place in that way – I think I may be considered an activist scholar, or a scholar activist may be more appropriate.

(Motivation) I really love what I’m doing, and other people getting excited about the issues that I’m excited about.

Seeing other people get interested in the possibility for change on these larger scales through the work that they are doing – that’s incredibly empowering and motivating.

(Challenges) Finishing my dissertation.

Continuing applied research with an interdisciplinary scope…bringing other people and organisations into that.

(Miracle) At the heart of it, I would wave a magic wand and people would see themselves as part of natural systems instead of apart from natural systems – and that awareness would change the way the prioritise things in their lives. If we could see more of that, we would see a lot more of the other things that we would like to see.

(Advice) Don’t be afraid to try new things, and if it doesn’t work out as you planned, look to people for whom it has worked and see if they are doing something differently.

This Sustainable Lens is from a series of conversations at University California Irvine. Sam’s visit was supported by the Newkirk Center for Science and Society, and coincided with Limits 2015.

transition towns waste

Relationships of waste and people.

Marian Shore

What we’re really doing is resource recovery of people, we just happen to be using the waste stream.

Marion Shore is the energy behind the Waitaki Resource Recovery Park in Oamaru. She is also involved in many community initiatives, including restorative justice and Transition Oamaru and Waitaki District.

Talking points

Oamaru is known historically as the organic capital of NZ

We’ve achieved a critical mass of like-minded individuals

When I got here, there was no recycling, and I thought “that’s a good thing for me to do”

A workshop I went to by mistake…organics in waste streams…he said the most hazardous material in the waste stream is organic matter – that didn’t make sense to me. I know now that the organics breaks down – but that’s the problem…a chemical soup leachate problem.

I thought “that’s really simple, we’ll just change the system”.

The most profound thing for me was the potential to create significant social benefit using the waste stream.

Mentoring at risk youth, long term unemployed, PACT…creating a social hub.

We’re able to create the social benefit for no additional cost to the community.

What we’re really doing is resource recovery of people, we just happen to be using the waste stream.

Not having kerbside recovery is actually a good solution, it means that wasters pay, recyclers get benefits. Rather than subsidising people who don’t recycle, the wasters pay and the recyclers get the benefit from either buying responsibly or disposing responsibly.

We’re like a filter, significantly extending the life of the landfill by diverting materials

There’s been some serious challenges to our existence over the years, but the community responded – marches to support the park. There was a year that they were changing the waste plan, and we weren’t a part of that, but there were 2000 submissions in favour of us.
The primary goal is reuse of recycling, anything in the bins is just stuff we haven’t currently found a recovery pathway for.

It’s good to look in the bin. At one stage the majority of what was in the bin was big furniture. So we found a market for foam. So then we dismantled to wood, wire and foam – we could sell all of that.

All the time we’re looking at local markets. Because our material is hand sorted we have a much higher quality, and so a broader range of markets are open to us.

What is really frustrating is new packaging. You’d think that packaging would have come with a system to manage the other end – but there isn’t.

If it’s mixed it’s rubbish, if it’s separated it’s resource.

While there’s a lot more awareness, there are other things that are not helpful.

We divert about 86% of what comes on site from landfill (but this isn’t the community figure as there is also kerbside rubbish collection).

Ideally we’d have systems that would do us out of business – I’d love to be redundant. But we’re treading water.

There’s no vetting of packaging, especially in cheap imported goods.

Waste crosses boundaries, everyone has it, and intrinsically people want to do the right thing.

We really push respect

We have a high staff turn-over and I’m really proud of that…we pick people up from the bottom…

We’ve created an environment… as we lose social agencies…we’re able to replace that in a way, in the real world.

Everyone is just volunteers, treated the same. We’ve been instrumental in turning around persistent offenders – there’s a different way to treat people, a different way to behave and it’s OK.

Restorative justice – an amazing powerful process – often profoundly beneficial.

You never know where the trigger is going to to be – what is going to turn the light on.

If we can resolve things locally, it’s about relationships

Innovative solutions that don’t necessarily cost – that brings the social aspect in.

Most often the offender is also a victim.

As a society we need to retrain in how we address conflict.

(Success?) Stories of staff

(Activist?) Introvert activist

(Motivation?) We’re all part of the one – we’re all interconnected.

(Challenge?) Less and less support from central government for social issues.

(Miracle?) That we’ve come up with social solutions locally.

(Advice?) You’re not to small to make a difference.

This series of conversations in Oamaru was prompted by discussions with Phoebe Eden-Mann following her OU Geography field trip to explore Oamaru as a transition town.

We are very grateful to the helpful folks from 45 South Television for the use of their studio.

dunedin energy local government waste

DCC sustainability


Sustainability at the Dunedin City Council is increasingly being seen as part of everyone’s role. The role of sustainability at the council itself is twofold, they have to reduce their own footprint, and help lead the city to a sustainable future. We explore what one of the world’s greatest small cities is doing to act locally.

Cath Irvine is the Waste Strategy Officer. She discusses the TV takeback scheme and the Waste management and minimisation strategy.

Neville Auton (who we’ve had on the show before) discusses Warm Dunedin, developments in street lighting and the development of an Energy Plan for the city.

Maria Ioannou (who we’ve also had on the show before when she worked for CSAFE) is the Council’s Sustainability Advisor. We talk about how sustainable thinking is becoming mainstreamed across all Council activities. Particular work areas for Maria include climate change adaptation, and the work towards development of an environmental strategy.

Shane’s number of the week: 1 million. Hectares of bamboo forest in Ethiopia which hopes to become the main supplier for Europe’s softwood supply. But is it sustainable?

Sam’s joined up thinking: Sam explores the implications of the convergence of four developments in the technology space: crowdsourcing, citizen science, gamification and ubiquitous computing.

green party waste

Denise Roche MP

Denise Roche is an NZ Green MP. She is, among other things, the Green spokesperson on waste issues. The key, she says, is seeing waste as a behaviour problem, not a transport problem. We ask how she became an activist and how she became “enraged by injustice”. While many of our guests shirk from being described as an “activist”, Denise wears this badge proudly. The biggest challenge we face is disengaged citizens (note: pointedly not “voter apathy”). She entered parliament a year ago, wanting to take part in political debates “like they matter” – we ask how’s that going? what she’s learnt, and who on the ‘other side’ is doing a good job.