Launch Auckland Regional Council's Education Resource on Waste Minimisation

  • Marie Hasler
Associate Minister for the Environment

Avondale College,
Victor Street, Auckland

Thank you Patricia Thorp, Chair of the ARC Environment Management Committee, for those words of introduction.

Good afternoon everyone.

It gives me great pleasure to be here this afternoon to help launch this most exciting resource, Treading lightly on the earth.

Treading lightly on the Earth meets an important need, and it meets that need admirably. The resource is a very good blend of information and tools for making ongoing changes.

The lively, creative and comprehensive approach taken to this resource is typical of the style we have come to expect from the Auckland Regional Council in environmental issues.

Treading lightly on the Earth takes a holistic approach to waste issues. At the outset, it introduces the critical concepts of waste reduction and prevention. It draws the link between waste and natural resources. Waste is, after all, resource down the drain - the sooner we realise this, the sooner we can start really addressing the issue.

Having introduced key concepts, the programme leads students into analysis of problems and to strategising for change.

We all know about the need for conservation, for waste reduction and greater recycling. Our views on the issue can, however, be simplistic. As long as we have put our cans and bottles in the recycling bin, we have done our bit for the environment.

This programme, however, introduces students to the rather more complex realities of waste which challenge policy makers and managers at all levels:

· what do we know about the composition of waste?
· what should be done about green waste, and construction waste?
· what are the appropriate roles for recycling and cleaner production strategies?;
and so on.

The programme also focuses attention on the scope individuals have, to make changes. Thank goodness it helps dispel the totally hopeless pictures of environmental disaster which confront us all through the media.

We can't wish environmental problems away, but rather, we need to be able to face them, and to take positive action. It is particularly important that children and young people head into adulthood with a "can fix' approach to waste issues.

I welcome the comprehensive approach taken in the development of this resource. It mirrors in many ways, the waste issues that Government is dealing with.

We know, for example, that waste reduction and waste prevention have to be given a greater profile.

Many of the cleaner production projects funded through the Sustainable Management Fund (or SMURF) aim to help businesses prevent and reduce waste. The results have generally been good, often startling. In looking more systematically at what they do, companies can reduce their waste, reduce their energy and resource use, and make significant savings. What is good for the bottom line is also good for the environment!

The Cleaner Production Website which is a joint venture between the Auckland Regional Council and the Ministry for the Environment provides good information on the subject.

We also recognise the need to dig below the surface when working with the waste hierarchy. Logically, reduction comes before reuse, recycling before recovery, and recovery before residual management.

In fact, the environmental costs of transporting products like glass over long distances may sometimes outweigh the benefits of recycling. And, the processes used in recycling can be more harmful than those used to produce virgin products.

Decision makers need good tools on which to make decisions about waste prevention and management. For this reason, the Minister for the Environment, Hon Simon Upton has approved SMURF projects which will assist decision makers.

A study of the economics of the waste industry has just reached the point of conclusion. Development of a life-cycle model for waste management is also planned.

I am pleased the educational programme addresses hazardous substances and hazardous wastes.

As you will know, the development of an integrated scheme for the management of hazardous substances is close to fruition. Simon Upton is presently considering amendments to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) to ensure it works smoothly. He will then be in a position to announce a start-up date for Hazardous Substances side of the HSNO regime.

At the same time, the Ministry for the Environment is working on improving the way we manage hazardous wastes. The Ministry is developing a hazardous waste framework that will use the same criteria for managing risks as HSNO, so we have a seamless management system for hazardous substances and wastes. We don't want hazardous products slipping through the cracks in any sense of the word!

It is critical for young people to know about products which can cause harm to people, animals, plants and the environment. Previously, major pollution and waste issues focused on major industries.

However, consumer products can also pose risks - paint, computer terminals, batteries and used lubricating oil are just a few which need to be managed properly throughout their life cycles. We need sensible management frameworks for these products, but we also need sensible, committed and informed consumers. Treading lightly on the earth goes a long way to meeting that need.

Treading lightly on the earth is also an example of how local authorities can contribute to the implementation of the Government's National Strategy for Environmental Education.

This Strategy was published in June 1998. It established the framework for achieving the goals and objectives of environmental education. The goal which is pursued is one where individuals and communities have the knowledge, skills and attitudes to enable them to make informed decisions which contribute towards maintaining and improving the quality of the environment.

The Strategy identifies six priority areas which were developed after an extensive consultation process. The six priorities have a number of specific actions which will be undertaken, supported and encouraged in the implementation of the strategy.

The Strategy also identifies clearly that the responsibility for the implementation of the Strategy lies the various sectors (including Central Government) who have an involvement and interest in environmental education.

One of the priority areas which has been identified has focused on schools. The Ministry of Education will soon be publishing their Guidelines for Environmental Education for schools. These guidelines will provide teachers with clear examples and suggestions on ways to integrate environmental education throughout the core curriculum strands. This resource which is being launched today will clearly be appreciated and valued by teachers who need resources to back up the guidelines.

Local government is certainly one of the key sectors involved in the implementation of environmental education. A resource such as this one is an excellent example of partnership which works.

Congratulations to all who have been involved in developing this wonderful resource. It now gives me pleasure to launch Treading lightly on the earth.