The Ultimate Closed Circular Waste System

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for ever so long! I think I was in such awe since visiting Raglan’s Xtreme Waste Works three years ago, I’ve not been brave enough to to attempt to unravel it yet! Today is a grey, dull day and I am inside without too many distractions, so it’s a good time to process my thoughts that have swirled around since my visit all those years ago.

Whaingaroa, the mystical Maori name for Raglan.
Surf and sportswear for sale…..

So in a nutshell, I am not impressed by someone’s ability to accumulate possessions but rather in their ability to let go of things without creating a big footprint on the earth. I have never been wowed by the amount of goods someone can purchase or their latest acquisitions. But talk to me about how little waste you generate and my eyes light up like a little girl waking up on Christmas Day! Now we’re talking!!

Raglan Xtreme Waste Centre

So you may be wondering WHY I would “waste” my time waxing lyrical about a recycling and waste centre. I am passionate about waste! I love to talk dirty trash. I pride myself on the fact that we produce very little waste in our home, as we try to keep the loop small with what we buy, use and throw out. So without further ado, let’s jump right into the action!

An amazing artwork of aluminium cans.

Though not your usual tourist attraction, we were excited to check out Raglan’s Xtreme Waste Centre. Raglan is a small beach side town on the west coast of the North Island. We booked a tour (yes, there is such a thing!!) of the Waste Centre and after a night at Solscape Eco Retreat (another place I’d always wanted to go and see…a wonderful “organic” place to stay with many different types of accomodation from earthdome cottages to upcycled railway cabooses. Highly recommend both experiences.

The Xtreme Waste Centre was established in May 2000 when their existing landfill was closed. It is run as a non-profit community organisation in partnership with the local Council.

Plastic bottles crunched up into blocks for recycling.

The story of inception is admirable, with the small community all coming on board to support dealing with their own waste rather than contracting it out to someone else to collect and deal with their waste. Over the years they have achieved between 70-80% diversion of waste into other streams (that means that only 20-30% of their totally waste is headed to landfill. This is a staggering success story!

Fabric which is diverted to the Industry cleaning rag pile rather than landfill.

Raglan community bring all their waste to the centre and it is diverted into many different categories. Wearable clothing is onsold, as are shoes, sports equipment, books etc. Just like an Opp shop or second hand store at your local dump.

“Hey, I have to go to the dump, and while I’m there, I’ll just do a little shopping too, why don’t I?”

Another “sculptural” aluminium can installation.

There are several different buildings on the Xtreme Waste site which house the different operations. What impressed us is the clear signage and educational provocations all around. Near the main entrance is the big “shop” which diverts the goods that are still good to go another few miles, so visitors can browse and for a small fee, take away a pre-loved treasure. Clothing, shoes, books, household paraphernalia and more…it is a veritable Aladin’s Cave of Treasures.

Second-Hand Store onsite

There are shelves and shelves of goods which are available for people to purchase or simply take what’s on offer for free. There are tools, household appliances, furniture and more. Enough to keep you ogling for at least a couple of hours. Then there are other buildings which house the metal reworkers, and the wood reworkers sheds. Old wooden furniture, windows etc. end up in these workshops where local folk upcycle or renovate them to sell back to the public. Not much is actually wasted. Old surf boards passed their Best Before date are collected by a local artist and turned into works of art!

The entrance to the Recycling Bay for bottles and cans, and shelves of diverted housewares.

This centre is a hive of activity and has provided many job opportunities for locals. They have also planted 6000 trees to reforest the area around the centre and work tirelessly to eradicate pests and protect the native bird and insect habitat. They provide consultation and mentoring to other communities wanting to follow their lead, and they provide on going education and awareness around issues of waste management.

The Wood workshop where locals learn new skills.

Most of you have heard the term Circular Economy, and you will be familiar with what it means, but for those scratching their heads, it means basically that from consumption to waste, we close the loops and make it a more earth-friendly circle of existence.

Signage is clear and easy to follow. Education and awareness is the key to empowering people to make informed choices.

Now, at this point I was so impressed, I just didn’t know there was even more to light up my eyes! The centre transforms all their green waste (garden clippings etc.) into compost, WHICH they then sell back to the locals! Such a brilliant system of waste management…..turning one’s rubbish into a commodity you then buy back!! The ultimate trash to treasure!

Xtreme Waste website boasts that they divert 178,833kg of waste from landfill each month! That is absolutely a mammoth effort and an incredible effort for a small community!!

Compost sold back to the community from their own garden waste contributions.

A fairly new initiative I see they have begun is to have kerbside food waste collection. It was discovered that about 20% of waste headed to landfill was actually food waste. So they decided to close that loop. Each household is issued with a sturdy kitchen caddy and compostable liners for their food waste, so instead of ending up in landfills and producing methane gas, food scraps are converted into valuable compost.

“One of the main objectives of the Raglan Resource Recovery Centre is to continually INCREASE THE ABILITY OF OUR COMMUNITY TO REUSE MATERIALS.”

The signage states; “When you shop or drop your treasure off here – you’re helping to create jobs for locals.” Creating jobs for locals puts money back into the community and reduces the need for locals to travel great distances for jobs elsewhere.

Pre-loved clothes await another owner to find them and give them another life.
Funky and Fabulous corner.

These folk know how to look after their community and their environment! The two fit hand in hand and benefits everyone. What a gem!

Need crockery for the caravan or Bach??

And of course, there is a veritable library of pre-loved books for those who love to thumb real pages rather than flicking through screens.

A small book of the Qu’ran sits comfortably amongst the small Bibles.

This waste initiative never stops evolving, that’s what’s so amazing about it! Some time back they realised that they wanted to put an end to single use plastic, so with education and raising awareness (Plastic Free Raglan), they enlisted local businesses help to reduce the use of plastic single-use straws, shopping bags, take away containers, cutlery etc.

A feast for the eyes!

Fancy a new ruby red couch for the living room? Or maybe a wooden book shelf? You never know what you’ll find in store!

The household waste systems for locals include a recycling bin, a kitchen caddy and plant-derived compostable bags.

So if you are ever wondering what to do one weekend, why not take a wander down our North Island’s West Coast and go tour the Xtreme Waste Centre? Who knows….you might just find a treasure in them thar piles of goodies!

It is well worth the drive!! Good on ya Raglanites!!

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