Working Towards Zero Waste

Massey researchers tackle household behaviour

Over recent years, Massey researchers Corrina Tucker and Trisia Farrelly have been exploring how local household treat their waste, and investigating ways to change these behaviours. PNCET funded a key part of this research, supporting a research survey which was conducted over nine month in 2013. The aim of the survey was to assess how best to minimize waste, what opportunities exist in our region to do better and what the barriers to waste minimisation are.

Four Palmerston North households volunteered to be part of the study and the researchers visited fortnightly during this time. The researchers aimed for a mix of people with different attitudes to ‘green’ issues. The householders photographed and weighed their waste for the study. They were also provided with some alternatives to experiment with, like LUSH Toothy Tabs, eco-Cleaners, shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes, reusable shopping bags, soap nuts (an alternative to laundry powder), compost bins and worm farms. The families were taken for a tour of the Awapuni Recycling Centre to see where their waste was going. Awapuni Recycling Centre Education Consultant, Pip Chrystall collected the families’ waste to assess how they were doing.

Of the families, two were already fairly aware of waste issues, one was a single older man who was more interested in the issue from a frugality point of view, and the last family were not ‘green’ at all. The results were mixed: a family with two teenagers managed to reduce their waste, a family of three achieved radical change and featured on TV news programme ‘Seven Sharp’, the non-’green’ family did worse, mainly due to having a baby, getting a puppy and hosting large family parties during the time of the survey. Re-usable shopping bags were used by three households, one household declined to use them because of concerns about hygiene. It seems being part of the study increased general awareness, one of the participants said: ‘I am thinking twice about what I am chucking out, and I’m thinking ‘oh okay, what can I do with that? Does it need to be chucked out?'

This successful research survey had a large impact on the national conversation about waste reduction, as well as the television appearance, two academic journal articles were published, two conference presentations were given, there were several public presentations at the Palmerston North City Library, to PNCC and as part of the Terrace End lunchtime talk series. Since then, Dr Trisia Farrelly has gone on to deepen her involvement in campaigning against plastics waste. She is a founding member of the local group, ‘Carrying Our Future’ (see their story on our website HERE). Dr Corrinna Tucker has gone on to deepen her interest in food waste in our region.


Summary of some key results:

  • All households decreased their contamination of the recycling stream.
  • All households reduced the amount of recycling they produced; the ‘downside’ of this though is was that household waste going to landfill increased for three of the four households.  The one household where this was not the case was the household that put significant effort into shopping differently to reduce waste and recycling.
  • All households reduced the amount of food waste put out for collection; one household reduced this to nothing.

PNCET are proud to have supported this important and valuable research.

You can read Dr Corrinna Tucker’s research paper here.


Stuff articles about the research: