Why some Aucklanders refuse to use food scrap bins

By Mahvash Ikram for RNZ

It has been nearly nearly six months since every Auckland household received a green food waste bin.

The rollout began about a year ago and was completed around October 2023, with the council charging homeowners an annual fee of $77.20 for the bin.

But some Auckland residents are still refusing to use them.

Colleen Lewis said she tried giving it a go.

"I was on board when we first were sent the bin," she said.

"I'm absolutely wanting to try to reduce our waste in general because we have to for the the planet and try to keep everything out of landfill."

But half-way through summer she put it in the too hard basket.

"It just got too gross and too much. So I just gave up."

Lewis said the pink waste bags that go inside the bin "completely disintegrated".

"They just aren't strong enough to hold the waste.

"They just would fall apart as you are lifting it out of your small bin from inside."

For Elesha Thomas, the bin just did not meet her family's requirements.

"I have six children and myself at home, and actually [at first] I thought, 'Oh yeah, that's cool'.

"But what I've found over time is that we don't actually really use it.

"I've got a small freezer for a start. So when I do my grocery shopping, I don't have space in there to put leftover food in the freezer."

Auckland Council said residents could request a second bin at no charge.

But Thomas said she will not be taking up that offer.

"I just won't use it. I have a compost at home."

She said the council food waste bin was like "an extra accessory".

"You buy that appliance at home in the kitchen and it just sits in your in your cupboard, in your pantry and and you just don't, you might use it once and then it just sits there."

And for those who do use the bin, Thomas said they were not sturdy enough.

"I've seen them blowing down the street. I've seen ones that have been run over on our streets."

Victoria Slapper also said the bin was not heavy enough and blew over during winter.

"This little stupid bin should have been weighted at the bottom," she said.

Auckland Council said there were no plans to change the size and weight of the bins, which were determined after careful consideration, and because they were picked up and emptied by hand.

Slapper said the carbon footprint of the bins off-set any environmental benefit the Auckland Council was hoping to achieve

"[There is] massive carbon footprint, the bins are made in Australia. Then you bring in the bags from China, then you have a truck, a diesel truck, come and collect all your scrap. Those that put them out got nothing to do with sustainability. It's got nothing to do with recycling."

Auckland Council said no one in New Zealand was interested in manufacturing the bins.

"Unfortunately, we did not receive a proposal for a food scraps bin manufactured in New Zealand. We understand from our suppliers that no compostable liners are made in New Zealand. All the material components come from China, so it is more cost effective to make them in China."

Jay Backhouse said the only time he used the bin was to store burley when he went fishing.

He said it would have been easier for council to give out compost bins.

"It would probably be more more effective than having bins that they have.

"They have to be collected. It just seems like a whole lot of fuss over something that doesn't really need to be an issue."

And with rates set to rise, residents who did not use the bin said they would have preferred the option to say no to being charged for the bin.

But Auckland Council said all seemed to be going to plan.

"Our target for total tonnage of food scraps collected for the first full year is 40,000 tonnes. Currently weekly tonnage collected across all areas suggests that we are on target to collect between 35,000 and 40,000 tonnes in one full year of collections. We have already seen a reduction in the weight of refuse in kerbside rubbish bins - by up to 20 percent in some areas."