Recycling to the fore in Hamilton’s high-tech waste overhaul

Hamilton City Council wants to increase the amount of waste diverted from landfill by 50 percent within three years, and EnviroWaste is playing a central role in making this possible.

EnviroWaste is raising the bar on everything waste-related, from how we collect waste, to how it’s treated, and even how residents feel about what they throw away.

Before submitting a bid for the Hamilton contract, the EnviroWaste team spent weeks on modelling, data analysis and budgeting to determine the viability of the project. When we won the contract in 2018, we then swung their attention from the conceptual to the concrete. Groups were set up to drive, inform and oversee the design of a collection and disposal/recycling programme to meet Hamilton city’s needs.

Setting up the new collection service has been a huge undertaking, requiring us to source and deliver approximately 180,000 bins to 59,000 households; establish a new fleet of collection trucks with a preference for electric vehicles; and recruit and train more than 30 drivers. But recovery and recycling are where EnviroWaste is truly expanding our capacity. Having owned one transfer station in Hamilton, we are now responsible for two, and will also take over management and operation of the Hamilton Organic Centre from July 2021.

With challenging targets for diverting waste from landfill, we needed a bold strategy to make our sites as efficient and effective as possible. We considered every aspect of the operation, from purpose to plant, and then invested millions of dollars in new buildings, staff, machinery and equipment.

The first site we targeted was our  transfer station at the end of Sunshine Avenue, between the railway and Te Rapa Racecourse. The site is undergoing dramatic redevelopment including the construction of a new $10m Material Recovery Facility (MRF). The MRF will sort and bale around 8,000 tonnes of paper, cardboard, plastic and metals from local kerbside collections and commercial operators each year. 

A key feature of the new Hamilton MRF is an education room that overlooks the main floor, where visitors can observe the operation and team at work.  People will understand, many perhaps for the first time, that the items they put in their recycling bin are seen, touched and sorted by fellow humans.

The Sunshine Avenue transfer station will also include new access roads, a truck wash, automatic weighbridges and electrical charging stations for their collection trucks and light passenger vehicles. The site has been converted to deal exclusively with compacted commercial waste, leaving the council-owned site in Lincoln Street for domestic and loose building waste that has landfill diversion potential. 

The Lincoln Street transfer station will be converted into a Recovery Park and redeveloped to provide more options for re-use and recycling, and safer access which will be aided by redirecting truckloads of commercial waste to Sunshine Avenue.

In addition to this, EnviroWaste has partnered with Habitat for Humanity, which runs two ReStore outlets in Hamilton. The charity will take over the recycling store at the Lincoln Street site, selling clothing, household items and demolition materials dropped off by residents and recovered from kerbside collections.

With compostable material making up so much of the waste stream, EnviroWaste’s Power and Resource Recovery Centre at Hampton Downs is key to reducing landfill. Our organics processing facility at this site has been upgraded and expanded to handle up to 30,000 tonnes of organic material a year – a huge leap from the 4,000 tonnes it processed in 2015.

Importantly, the upgrade enables composting to be shifted from the Hamilton Organic Centre, resolving past issues with noise, odour and run-off. Compost from the Hampton Downs facility will be returned to the food cycle via orchards, farms and gardens, including a community garden at the organic centre.

A 2017 waste audit showed almost half the contents of household rubbish bags were compostable. With the introduction of separate recycling bins, a food waste collection and more recycling options, we expect a meaningful reduction in residual waste.

EnviroWaste is impressed by Hamilton City Council’s leap of faith to invest in new equipment, plant and people – moving beyond a “haul and bury” system to focus on re-use.

EnviroWaste is partner of choice for more than 21 New Zealand councils, and the Hamilton waste management project is our most ambitious to date. To meet the challenges of rolling out a complete and cost-effective solution for reducing, re-using and recycling waste, EnviroWaste has integrated new state-of-the-art processes coupled with community initiatives that are proving successful in other regions around the country.

Below: The Hamilton Material Recovery Facility

 Hamilton MRF