Part of being a responsible planetary citizen is to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. One of the keys to making this possible is to sort waste materials at source, so they can be reused or recycled in the appropriate way. From the beginning we designed in an area near the entrance as a collection station for sorting metals, glass, plastics and other useful materials for re-use or collection and recycling.
One of the many advantages of having a cooperative community is that one person's waste can be another's treasure! Many otherwise discarded items and materials, from furniture to toys to surplus seedlings, find new homes within Earthsong. Timber offcuts and large prunings are stored for use in the common house fireplace. Other useful building offcuts are stored and usually find a use in the gardens, including pipe of various sizes, wire netting, brick pavers, fence stakes, and roofing.
Council kerbside recycling collections in our area collect glass, plastic nos. 1 - 7, aluminum cans, steel tins and paper, on a fortnightly basis. Residents collect paper in their homes until collection day, while the other recyclables accumulate in the wheelie bins stored in the recycling yard. Other waste metals are collected and taken periodically to the waste transfer station for recycling.
Other materials can be recycled if you know where to go. Plastic bags are not acceptable in the council recycling bins, and would normally have to be thrown in the rubbish. However, a local company collects "stretchy" plasticssuch as plastic bags, clingfilm and some packaging. The company provides us with a large bag which they collect when full (for free) and turn the plastic into large cable reels and underground cable covers here in Auckland.
We also have a box for the safe collection of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (which are potentially hazardous if broken), which are taken to Interwaste for safe disposal.
Organic waste is a wonderful resource, and at Earthsong we use a variety of methods to turn it into rich fertile compost to nourish our gardens. Large wooden compost bins live in the teardrop garden and are tended by our "compost queen", for re-use on the common gardens. Many households have their own smaller compost bins for domestic use. Many residents use the "Bokashi Zing" system of anaerobic fermentation using EM (Effective Microorganisms. Others have worm farms to handle the cooked and/or mushy food waste.
All of the above means that the rubbish discarded per household from Earthsong is only 30% of that from an average household in Waitakere City, as shown by a recent refuse audit. Imagine the savings in raw materials, in rubbish truck fuel, in landfill areas, and the reduction of methane emissions and leachate from the landfills, if this was a result general across the whole city. And we are still a little surprised that we didn't do better - but with 32 households, there is a range of awareness and behaviour amongst residents about waste as for anything else. We'll certainly keep working on it.