An acre of performance is worth a whole world of promise and a couple of weeks ago Xtreme Zero Waste in Raglan showed a group of early-rising Aucklanders 12 acres of performance!

Jumping on a community-owned bus, (thanks to the Mangere East Community Centre), representatives from a variety of community organisations and Council business units from South Auckland and Tamaki, headed to Raglan for a one-day tour of Xtreme Zero Waste.

Raglan flies the gold standard on how to run a community recycling centre. Born 14 years ago out of frustration at how the existing transfer station was managed, (as well as a way of tackling the larger issue of environmental degradation of the local waterways due to leach-ate from the dump), a group of like-minded individuals formed Raglan Zero Waste. The story of Raglan’s formation was shared by key staff including Rick Thorpe, Jacqui Forbes and Campbell.

One of the first things I noticed was the aesthetics. Xtreme Zero Waste have managed a feat many might think impossible - developing a waste centre which is a pleasant place to be in. Frequent collections and clever placement of landfill-destined waste, ensured almost no perceptible rubbish odours and few flocking seagulls. Creative signage (in both English and Te Reo Maori) from used resources added an artistic flavour to the centre. The good vibrations of the place was palpable - Campbell from the woodyard was clearly (and deservedly) proud of his work in maximising community reuse of staples such as timber. The reincarnation of used goods in his upcycling workshop was amazing.

Jacqui talked us through the history of Xtreme Zero Waste from it’s early days to its current management of all of Raglan’s waste, from the kerbside pickup and drop-off centres to its incredible landfill diversion rate of 75%. Finally

Rick Thorpe showed us the drop-off areas and reuse shop (Kaahu’s Nest) with their attractive displays to maximise purchase and thus reuse. His consideration of the site as the perfect place to stay in an emergency (they have 2-50 of everything), chickens, sea views and large spaces in which to party) added a value to the place that I for one hadn’t previously considered. In cases of house fires, or other such emergencies, Xtreme Zero Waste provide bedding and clothes almost immediately to those in need, thereby circumventing lengthy waits for insurance payouts. They clearly think beyond waste and see themselves as a resource for the whole community.

Following the tour was a brief visit to Raglan’s main street where local shops purveying goods supplied by Xtreme Zero Waste could be viewed.

Although Xtreme Zero Waste showed us acres of top-class performance it was also an inspiring trip, and hopefully trip attendees will take home thoughts and ideas (as well as a few goods from the Reuse Shop) on how to establish such an enterprise in their own backyards.

- Sarah, Envision NZ

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