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Chatham Islanders finally step out of their rubbish holes to join the recycling movementNew News Page

By Nicholas Boyack | 12 Mar 2019 14:27

Chatham Islands

It could be the most difficult recycling challenge in New Zealand.

For years, Chatham Islanders have put their rubbish into a big hole. Once the hole was chocker, they would set it on fire to compact it and more rubbish would be added.

Everything from batteries, TVs, fishing gear, to household rubbish, beer bottles, oil and paint went into the ground.

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The Chatham Islands is well known for its rugged beauty. Until recently, locals dealt with rubbish by putting it in a hole and burning it.

The 600 locals are now moving to a new system and for the first time they are being encouraged to think clean and green, and recycle.

Recyclable waste is being collected from two waste stations and, once it is sorted, it is being baled up to be shipped to Timaru.

Non-reclyable waste is being baled and put into a new fully lined landfill to collect leachates, which will be treated at the islands' water treatment plant.

Council chief executive Own Pickles said recycling was a big change of thinking for locals and he estimated they were "20 years" behind the rest of the country.

The previous system "was quite damaging" to the environment and the council could not keep digging holes for ever, he said.

Chatham Islanders pay about $600,000 in rates annually and Pickles said the new system, which cost $1.96 million, would not have been possible without central government support.

Although the Chathams was keen to increase tourism, he said the rubbish burn-offs had not been a turn-off to visitors.

"It was a bit of a tourist attraction, when it happened."

A few years ago, the island was featured in a major New Zealand magazine.

The main picture was of the landfill, which Pickles said was in a particularly scruffy state.

The man in charge of convincing locals to stop digging holes, Jason Goomes, said his job was not easy.

"I am a local so I can get away with talking to them a little harsher that the council can."

Some locals "grizzle" and do not want to change but he kept  reminding them the island was simply running out of room to dig new holes.

"It is a long process but people are slowly changing their way of thinking."

He believed his boss was being generous in saying locals were 20 years behind the rest of the country.

"I keep telling them you have had it easy for 40 years but you have to change."

Until the new system is fully operational, they still have one hole to dump rubbish in, which is occasionally being set on fire. 

He was expecting to send bales of recyclables to Timaru soon and was also collecting oil and paint to ship off the island.

Goombes said it had taken two years to set-up and he was confident that once it was completely finished, the locals would buy into recycling.


Source: Stuff

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