Refurbished ECE centre a Zero Waste hero

Refurbished ECE centre a Zero Waste hero

Children’s Ark in Torbay have been recognized for their commitment and leadership in reducing waste in the community at the recent Zero Waste Awards in Auckland. They received a Highly Commended award for Rangatahi – Leadership. The commendation is a reflection of the work they’ve done at their newly refurbished ECE centre which is well on the way to becoming Zero Waste.

Auckland Council have a goal to make the city zero waste by 2040, and businesses like Children’s Ark are leading the way to making this goal a reality.

Centre manager Sue Trace embraced the unique opportunity that refurbishment offered and put in place systems that would ensure the centre reduced its waste going to landfill to an absolute minimum.

Typically, the two main waste streams created at ECE centres are disposable nappies and food waste. Disposable nappies are a huge problem with an estimated 10 million going to landfill each week in NZ. Children’s Ark now only use cloth nappies in their babies room, having signed up to Eco Nappy Services who not only take away and launder all the dirty nappies, but also provide everything needed to get started. https://www.ens.co.nz/

Contrary to common belief, food waste does not breakdown in the landfill.  Instead, it creates methane, a major greenhouse gas, and leachate, a toxic soup resulting from all the different materials packed into the landfill. 

At Children’s Ark, all food is now prepared on site in their new kitchen which enables them to minimize any food waste as well as reduce food packaging. The kitchen staff prepare delicious healthy food every day and any food scraps are bokashi composted which is essentially a way to pickle food scraps and prevent smell.  These are collected fortnightly by City 2 Farm Project who take the bokashied food scraps to a farm near Waitoki where it is made into compost to build soil and grow more food. 

The new centre has an edible garden space where the children learn about caring for Papatuanuku, including worm farming, composting, and growing food. Many ECE centres now have a safety surface incorporating plastic grass. This was an absolute no for Children’s Ark who have recycled wood bark for their safety surface, and incorporate real grass in their gardens, believing children need to be immersed in nature. Teaching resources inside are based on real objects, loose parts incorporating recycled materials, and wooden toys. Sandpit utensils are often metal items upcycled from op-shop such as pots and pans. Children use real crockery, metal cutlery and stainless-steel drinking cups at meal times. No glitter is used in artwork and laminating is kept to a minimum.

They have been supported on their Zero Waste journey by Hibiscus Coast Zero Waste who run an ECE program funded by the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board.  The program works alongside the centres to help them make the necessary changes to reduce their waste.  It is hoped that the children and parents will begin to adopt some of these practices at home.

Further information –

Children Ark  https://www.childrensark.co.nz/

Eco Nappy Services https://www.ens.co.nz/

City to Farm  food waste diversion

Hibiscus Coast Zero Waste ECE program

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