Last week we spoke of Mexico City, a capital of 21 million people, who are in the infancy of their sustainable future. They are closing landfills, trading recyclable waste for food and investing in foreign technologies to help their recycling targets. This week we cross to the other side of the world, to Auckland, New Zealand. Let's get started!


Largest and most populous city in New Zealand Population 1.4 million Original Maori name: Tamaki Makaurau Modern, Secular, Democratic society mostly built up of immigrants Freedom of speech and religious beliefs protected by law 265 days of sunshine per year No dangerous of poisonous animals (unlike Australia!) Auckland used to be the Capital from 1842-1865 The Sky Tower, which can be seen from most of the city, is the tallest building in the southern hemisphere at 328 metres Transforming Cities: Innovations for Sustainable Futures At the University of Auckland, a team of sustainable thinkers from different industries came together for a research initiative. They recognized that half of the world's population was now urbanized, with that figure still growing. People are moving towards great social hubs, and with that comes many social issues, but also issues in regards to pollution, waste and space. recyclingIn their own words, 'The initiative creates a cross-disciplinary urban studies focus for the University of Auckland, and aims to support and promote interdisciplinary research on questions of major socio-economic and environmental importance as we work towards healthier, more vibrant and liveable cities and communities.' The team recognized several further socio-economic talking points, like poverty, resource scarcity, conflict, political stability and climate change. Auckland is well developed, and so it seems that they wouldn't face these hardships in the same concentration as third world countries. Sadly, the reality is that we are all in the same boat, and living unsustainably will cause and end to stability and comfort. Sustainability is a long term global goal. Beyond the logic, how are Auckland faring in the sustainability sphere? recyclingIn 2012 and 2013, Auckland hosted a Sustainable City Showcase, described as 'New Zealand's Premier sustainability event'. The next showcase is due for 2015. Surely to host one of these events, a city must be making considerable steps towards sustainability. Which is why in September 2014, the NZ government announced a new initiative to develop better housing and urban environments as part of it's programme of National Science Challenges. This is a ten year plan, aiming to deliver:
Practical solutions to develop smart cities, better transport and healthy urban environments. Solutions to constraints on construction sector productivity and innovation uptake. Innovative materials, processes and devices for the New Zealand construction sector. Better understanding of demographic drivers and consumer preferences in housing. Solutions for cost-effective upgrades to existing building stock.
A second research initiative involving five universities, including Auckland, was looking into systems for improving and sustaining resilient urban futures. Sustainable Cities Centre Director Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman says the research is “One that accounts for cities as complex systems – emphasising for example the links between housing and transport, and urban form and water – and which is informed by case studies, to enable government, developers and Māori to have a clear idea of the broad future consequences of different urban investment decisions.” recycling In May 2014, world renowned architect Alejandro Haiek Coll spoke in Auckland about exploring art for new public designs. He spoke fondly of the use of recycled materials in sustainable architecture, and idea that we strongly agree with. What are Auckland doing for the world of recycling? Auckland Recycling In 2006, the Ministry for Environment introduced eDay, which is used as a means of collecting and recycling electronic waste. Of course, electronic waste is now a major part of the waste stream, so it is vital that efforts are made to recycle, and not just ship materials to e-waste dumps, like Guiyu. With agriculture being a huge part of Kiwi life, you'd be right in thinking that agriculture waste is huge. In recent years the burning of plastic was banned, and now farming plastics, like HDPE film are recycled. The chemical waste from agriculture is collected, and disposed of sustainably. Kerbside recycling was introduced to Auckland in around 1996 and is now available to almost all of the country. Auckland has just one remaining landfill, known as the Whitford landfill. It has been the sole landfill site for Auckland for nearly a decade and for 20 years has been operated with sustainable management tools (methane extraction and waste pre-treatment). Landfill should always be a last resort, and thankfully it is for Auckland and New Zealand, with the mass shut-down of landfills over recent years. Twenty years ago there were over 300 sites, and now the figure is under a hundred, that deserves some congratulations! New Zealand has 9 Green MPs who are famously devoted to protecting the environment of the country. Denise Roche, MP for Auckland council, has said 'I want to see real reform of the waste sector - by putting power and responsibility back in the hands of communities'. recycling It's not all success in the recycling sphere though, with a recent scheme to recycle 90,000 TVs in the digital switch-over almost completely failing. Community organisations are said to be out of pocket, and the TVs currently gather dust in collection points around the country. Unfortunately, the fingers are being pointed at Auckland based recycling service RCN E-Waste. The E-Waste company, despite receiving millions from the government, went into liquidation also owing millions. They were investigated for fraud.

Zero Waste Auckland

By 2040 Auckland wants to be Zero-Waste, and since making that target, have began working hard to increase recycling rates. In a 2013 recycling guide sent to homes, they state 'Auckland are already great recyclers, sending more than 100,000 tonnes of material to be turned into new products each year. But we could still do more. recyclingThe average Aucklander sends about 160kg of rubbish to landfill every year. Of this, 65 percent could have been avoided or put to better use.' (Image is recycled plastic daisy blanket in Auckland Botanical Gardens) That 65% percent is comprised of 40% food waste, 10% garden waste and 15% recycling. The local council has now introduced a new food collection service, an enhance recycling service and a pay-as-you-throw system for rubbish collection. They have even created this useful tool to help with recycling.

Making a point

We've saved the best until last with this article, as Auckland has one news story that we think is marvellous. To highlight the need to recycle more and waste less, Auckland Council dumped a truck load of rubbish in a city centre square. The mayor and local board members sifted through the waste, pulling our things like plastic bags and batteries. The act was a metaphor, a defiance against the casual discarding of useful resources, a message that Auckland can become sustainable with it's waste. One final input from us before we come to an end with Auckland, have you heard about their bridge? To keep traffic flowing sustainably, the 8 lane Harbour Bridge has a movable central divider. When the traffic flow is imbalanced, the divided can change from 4/4 to 5/3! How incredible! Below is a hut made from recycled timber on the Waiheke Trail. recycling You can listen to Zero Waste Champions Mal Williams, Gerry Gillespie and Max Purnell talk about Zero Waste for University of New Zealand here.