Darren looks after pretty much everything going on at the landfill - from the rubbish processing, compost production and the Tip Shop recycling shop to gas recovery and the monitoring of Wellington's closed landfills – and he loves it.
“I really enjoy the variety of work and the different projects we have here, as well as getting a great sense of pride and satisfaction from doing a good job to industry’s best practice," says Darren. "I also get to work with a great team every day – although it can get pretty cold up here sometimes."
The process starts with the rubbish being tipped out then sorted, with a great chunk of reusable goods getting recycled. The remaining 200 tonnes of waste received each day is placed into the engineered fill, which eventually is turned into power. They use ultimate compaction procedures to maximise the airspace.
“I don’t think of it being a landfill," says Darren. "Rather a ‘park in progress’."
“We’re our own little waste-to-energy plant up here too. The methane and carbon dioxide gases that build up as a result of waste are extracted from the ground and converted into one megawatt of energy, which powers 1000 homes every day.”
Darren started at the landfill 21 years ago and he’s worked his way up to running the joint. He’s well suited for the role, with qualifications and experience covering civil engineering, operational skills, process and production expertise, contracting and industry knowledge, and of course customer service.
“The job is pretty much 24/7 because we are only closed three days a year and there are always people calling about compost orders, or what they can get rid of and what it’ll cost. The best way to find out is to check out the Council website under ‘landfills’, and also use your common sense!"
Over the years, Darren reckons he has composted more than 650,000 tonnes of organic waste, converting it into valuable compost products. Capital Compost alone processes about 10,000 tonnes of green waste each year, including food waste from Wellington restaurants and other premises collected through the Council's Kai to Compost service.
All of this is processed on site at the Southern Landfill, where you can buy the compost, garden mix, and mulches. You can also phone ahead to arrange delivery of bulk supplies.
Every year, New Zealanders send over a tonne of rubbish on average per household to a landfill – much of which is not reprocessed or recycled.
“The Southern Landfill is probably the largest landfill in the country by available airspace capacity, but we need to minimise the amount of waste going there. Wellingtonians need to recycle, reuse, or drop reusable goods off to the Tip Shop store at the landfill, and buy quality goods – not rubbish!”
The Southern Landfill is located off Happy Valley Road between Brooklyn and Owhiro Bay, and is open from Monday to Saturday from 7.30am to 5pm, and on Sunday from 9am to 5pm.