Culture and education key to zero-waste ambition

Like many organisations, Ports of Auckland’s (POAL) sights are set on a more environmentally conscious future. Realising that you’ve got to fix things in your own backyard before attempting to change the world, the port operator is taking a multi-pronged approach to sustainability, targeting the reduction of port-generated and office-based waste, along with greenhouse gas emissions, and more efficient systems for its warehouses.

Whereas greenhouse gas minimisation and energy efficient systems are all about process and technology improvements, minimising waste involves training and motivating certain behaviours. 


POAL’s vision for zero-waste to landfill by 2040 spearheads the company’s broader commitment to the environment. A critical first step in the port operator’s strategy, was identifying waste streams for diversion from landfill. However, successful diversion hinged on securing ‘buy-in’ from 500-plus staff.


POAL’s first move was to introduce waste and recycling bins, colour-coded according to internationally recognised standards.

Sizing up the mountain of landfill waste coming from staff cafeterias, the port operator installed two custom-made waste stations to ensure staff placed their waste in the correct bins to separate organics, mixed recycling (cans and bottles), and residual landfill waste.

In tandem, strategically placed colour-coded bin stations replaced under-desk bins throughout offices at the port facilities. Each station includes an additional option for paper recycling.

This move alone, has eliminated hundreds of single-use plastic bags once used to line waste bins located under desks. It’s a big win for cleaners too, who now manage waste from five central locations rather than having to dive under hundreds of office desks. 


Eighteen months on from launching its waste minimisation initiative with EnviroWaste, POAL is diverting 68% of waste from landfill at its waterfront site in Auckland.

A considerable portion of diverted waste is organic green and food matter. With support from EnviroWaste, POAL is now contributing over 56 tonnes of organic material to a composting facility in Auckland.

POAL’s Waste Team reports progress and updates staff with new initiatives, keeping the programme top of mind. The team also casts an eye to procurement, with a view to selecting products aligned to waste minimisation.

With plenty of scope for improvement, the company is turning up the dial on awareness and education, using workplace champions to spread the word and show the way for staff to do their bit for a zero-waste workplace.

Nigel Ironside, a senior environmental advisor at POAL, concedes that there’s still work to do for the port to reach its zero-waste goal by 2040. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” he said. “Waste minimisation shouldn’t be daunting. Get started and opportunities to reduce waste will appear.

“EnviroWaste is an invaluable partner in our waste minimisation journey, providing support and the opportunity to bounce around ideas,” said Ironside. “They also help us to navigate industry changes, prioritise our focus in the short-term, and highlight bigger plays to achieve our longer-term aspirations.”

Pictured below:  EnviroWaste mixed recycling bin

Mixed recycling bin