Māngere family of 11 puts out less than one bin of rubbish a week
A thoughtful lifestyle means this family of 11 renting in Māngere puts out less than one bin of rubbish a week.
A chance encounter on a bus driving job to Waitākere Transfer Station sparked Koia Teinakore’s interest in zero waste.
After dropping his passengers off at the Zero Waste Zone learning centre, the father of six and grandfather of three decided to sit in on the class rather than wait on the bus.
“I went home to the wife that night and told her what a great job I’d had,” he said. Then, he got his children to tip out all the rubbish in the house on to the floor, and to claim responsibility for every bit that was theirs.
Teinakore drove a further three groups to the learning centre and sat in on every workshop. He was hooked.
“Each time I took a trip, my eyes were getting wider and wider. My partner, Robyn, and her kohanga reo colleagues attended one of the workshops and when we got home we started thinking differently about how we needed to get it right, to look after Papatūānuku for our tamariki and mokopuna,” he said.
Kiwis throw away 157,389 tonnes of perfectly good food each year, a waste worth $1.17 billion ($644 per household).
Teinakore started monitoring his family’s bins. He said that, like most households, they had an “OK” recycling system but “the rest” would fill five big rubbish bags in a week.
The first change he made was to build each of his children their own set of bins to keep in their bedrooms. They became responsible for sorting their waste before adding it to the house rubbish, recycling, soft plastics or compost.
“My younger ones were not really getting it, so we had them tip out a bag at the end of the week and talked them through the right place to put each piece of packaging,” Teinakore said.
Now, the family often does not have enough rubbish to put their bin out for collection. They manage that by buying all the household essentials (such as soap, sugar and flour) in bulk, like Teinakore’s own mother did, and freezing their food waste to repurpose into creative leftovers, like goulash and soups.
“We don’t have much money anyway but whatever we can save helps,” he said. “And it is also kind to the environment.”
Changing habits does take a bit of work. “It did not come overnight. It took a good three years for us to get it right.”
Teinakore’s passion led to a paid role at ME Family Services as a waste minimisation facilitator, through which he has been able to share what he has learned with the wider Māngere/Ōtāhuhu communities in partnership with Auckland Council.
He educates church, school and marae groups about waste, and finds people within those groups who can champion the issue. The community organisation has kept 14,000 kilograms of waste material out of landfill in the past year alone.
The biggest thing Teinakore said he had learned thus far was that growing the food yourself was one of the easiest ways to manage food waste.
Teinakore grew up with big gardens but had lost touch with the skill in adulthood. Again, he sought out some free lessons and brought the knowledge home with him.
He put in winter vege seedlings with his three mokopuna during the last lockdown to teach them that their corn did not come out of a can.
Bokashi bins are a Japanese system that pickles waste – unlike traditional composting where food is allowed to decay – suited to small spaces. Bokashi bins produce a nutrient-rich material that you can dig straight into your garden. Teinakore keeps several of them in the kitchen.
When they are full, everything goes back into the ground, along with any paper and cardboard waste. In three months that will be a fresh load of “beautiful soil” to feed his plants.
“I am chuffed about doing the gardening with my moko because they are at the age where they really listen,” he jokes. “That is the joy of being a granddad.”
Te Puna Oranga, a community garden and resource recovery space in Māngere East, is now in Teinakore’s care. It is open to the community and provides hands-on learning opportunities for anyone interested in finding ways to re-use rubbish as a resource.
Teinakore said he did this work because he wanted to ensure the next generations of his family had the knowledge to carry on the kaupapa.
“When we were younger we were told that there was a big bright future ahead. But in my own mind, I am not sure there is going to be a big bright future unless people change their attitudes and stop trashing the environment.
“I am no expert but I am willing to learn every day.” Next on his personal to-do list is a home water collection system.