DIY garage sale diverts 15 tonnes from landfill

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A giant DIY garage sale in Cambridge has saved nearly 15 tonnes – around 13 skip bins – of construction waste from landfill.

In the process, it has raised $11,000 for a local primary school and has kicked off an idea that could roll out across the country.

The idea of turning products destined for landfill into bargains for DIY enthusiasts came from Cambridge-based Rob May Builders and was supported by Waipā District Council. Others involved in the construction industry, also struggling with construction “leftovers”, were quick to jump on board.

Around 15 local firms got involved donating products ranging from kitchen sinks to paint, Gib board and boxes of small goods like door knobs. Some were brand new and others were end-of line or simply no longer needed.

All were put up for sale during a giant “DIY Garage Sale” hosted by Shaw’s Wire Ropes at its undercover premises. The sale was promoted by Waipā District Council and managed by volunteers from Cambridge East School. When the doors closed, the volunteers banked $11,000 into the school’s fundraising account and Rob May Builders director Jono McCullough was left smiling.

“We try not to be wasteful but there are always some leftover products at the end of each build. These materials are either thrown out or stored to be used at a later date,” McCullough said.

“We’ve been looking at better ways to manage this but there are always some products that slip through the cracks. This event was great because we’re finding new uses for our waste, keeping material out of landfill and supporting a local school in the process. It was a win-win all round.”

More than 500 bargain-hunters poured through the sale. Any products left over were donated to Habitat for Humanity.

Waipā District Council’s waste minimisation officer Sally Fraser was thrilled by the success of the event which saw everything “including a couple of kitchen sinks” taken away and reused.

“There’s truth to the saying that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure and we really saw that at this event.”

Nor did the event blow Fraser’s modest budget which comes from the government’s waste minimisation fund. Council spent $6200 on the event, only just surpassing the estimated $5000 it would have cost for local companies to dump the goods at a land-fill.

McCullough said the event identified a community need and opportunity that could easily be replicated in towns across the country.

Fraser has been helping spread the word so councils nationwide can help stimulate local interest in doing something similar.

“Construction and demolition waste makes up an estimated 11.5 percent of all waste in the greater Waikato region – around 26,000 tonnes of product each year.”

Along with McCullough, she has identified the “factors for success” to make similar events hum.

“You need a well-known and well-respected local from within the building or construction industry to lead it and that company should choose where the money goes because it gives them a personal stake in the event going well,” she said.

“You need an organisation that is genuinely interested in minimising waste; this isn’t about just getting rid of stuff. You need volunteers who are happy to manage the event on the day. And it’s a good idea to get the local council involved because they use their channels to help promote the event and spread the word.”

You also need to be realistic, she said.

“We priced everything the night before and we weren’t greedy. On the day, we reassessed how things were going and at one point, dropped everything to half-price. Then, as the morning moved on, we changed again to ‘make-an-offer’. This was about moving stuff on so it could be useful elsewhere.”

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