Grandad's lesson scuttled

Riley Smith and grandad Derek Young.

He thought he was doing the responsible grandfatherly thing – passing on stuff, passing on his wisdom and experience to the grandkids.

But the lesson got cut dead in its tracks. And the grandkids went back to Wellington still not seeing what happens to the recycling once it reaches the transfer station.

“I spent half a day ringing around the country for answers,” says responsible grandfather Derek Young. “But I ended up banging my head.”

Derek arrived at Tauranga’s Maleme St transfer station, a rubbish dump or tip, in Greerton with a trailer of rubbish, some recycling and two kids in tow. Riley, aged 10, but who is nearly 11, and Milla six; the grandkids. This was to be an experience and a learning one, some show-and-tell they could take home to Wellington.

What happens to rubbish or the recycling once it leaves the curb side?

“I appreciate they were too young to be around the tip face at the transfer station but I thought Riley was old enough to find out about putting aluminium cans in one container and milk bottles in another.”

But a staff member came up and ordered Riley back to the van. “She wasn’t allowed to be there because she was too young. She didn’t ask how old Riley was and I didn’t know how old she had to be.”

EnviroWaste enforces the rule of children under the age of 15 not being allowed out of vehicles at the transfer station.

Derek didn’t see any signs, he wasn’t looking for any signs and he didn’t believe they were doing anything dangerous.

“Riley was never more than a metre from me the whole time, she was under my close supervision.”

“Stupid rule,” thought Derek. Stupid because at 15, he believed kids had already learned their bad habits, they were already set in their ways.

“If they don’t understand recycling by then they probably think rubbish is just rubbish and want to chuck it. I just wanted my grandkids to look and learn. I wanted to give them that experience”

So he rang EnviroWaste, which runs the tip for the Tauranga City Council. Derek says he was told they didn’t make the rules, they just enforced them. And it was WorkSafe New Zealand, the government service responsible occupational health and safety, which made the rules.

Derek’s been a builder for 50 years, never had an accident, never fallen off a roof on a building site and feels increasingly overrun with rules and regulations. “Can’t do this, can’t do that; can’t do the next thing.” WorkSafe tells Derek: “No, not our rules”.

Then EnviroWaste head office in Auckland told The Weekend Sun the company treats safety as its number one priority and won’t knowingly put anyone in a risk situation.

“I know first-hand how busy it can get at the Tauranga recycling centres,” says EnviroWaste managing director Gary Saunders.

So the company made a call that children, for their safety, should remain in vehicles and they police that rigorously. “I also know I can witness the recycling activities at the site from a parked car and remain totally safe.”

For his part Derek says he achieved what he set out to achieve – to make people aware of a stupid rule. But two grandchildren from Wellington still haven’t experienced what happens to recycling after it leaves the curbside.

The Tauranga City Council claims to have “a very robust recycling education programme in schools, which includes supervised trips to their facilities”. But that opportunity doesn’t extend to two kids from Wellington.

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