Ellen Rykers talks to a Southland couple with ambitious plans to divert construction waste from landfill.
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As much as 50% of the waste generated in New Zealand comes from construction and demolition, and a decent chunk of it ends up chucked – in landfill or cleanfill. In some places, like Southland, disposal of construction and demolition waste is standard.
But husband-and-wife team Dan and Kereana Butterfield are aiming to change that with a new facility to give wood, metal, jib, plastic, cardboard, concrete and bricks a second life.
The pair started their waste management company, Kiwi Skips, six years ago after finding it frustratingly difficult to hire a skip for their home renovation. They quickly realised that in Southland, landfill is currently the only fate for the construction waste they collect. “Construction waste, organic waste – in Southland, there’s no other option for these types of waste. They just go straight to landfill, which is just wrong,” says Dan. This inspired them to embark on an ambitious project to develop Southland’s first resource recovery centre.
Usually, a project on that scale would require several million dollars of capital – money that Dan and Kereana don’t have. Instead, they’re turning to recycled parts from other industries to gradually build up their facilities. Their main sorting facility is the conveyor from the old Queenstown luge. Construction on the building to house the old luge conveyor has begun, thanks to a $20,000 grant from Xero’s inaugural Beautiful Business Fund. The project won the “Innovating for sustainability” category.
“It will be easier, more efficient and safer for the staff to separate the wood from the concrete from the brick from the metal. All that good stuff that can be repurposed, reused, crushed down,” says Kereana. The pair expect the sort facility to be constructed in about six months, and are documenting the behind-the-scenes on a weekly vlog called Trash Talk.
From there, wood can be shredded for use in landscaping, biofuels or animal bedding, and concrete can be crushed to create more sustainable aggregates. Glass can be ground into sand, for use in new concrete. Materials like cardboard and metal can be bundled up and shipped elsewhere for recycling.
“We are always gonna need landfill,” says Dan. “But we just need to be a bit more careful about how quickly we’re filling it.”