The problem: There's no market for some of the mixed plastics we collect
Like most other cities in New Zealand, we’re now faced with a tough decision – we can no longer find a market for some of our recycling.
Previously, containers with numbers 3, 4, 6 and 7 were sent overseas, but over the past 18 months we haven’t been able to find a market for them. We’ve been storing this recycling at our Awapuni Resource Recovery Centre while we investigate other markets and alternative uses, and await government decisions about standardising collections nationwide.
This isn’t just a Palmy problem – half of the cities in New Zealand have stopped collecting these numbers from their kerbside and commercial recycling. We believe the other remaining cities have stored this recycling as we have been.
But we now have close to 1,300 bales of these plastics at our site. This takes up a large space and poses health and safety concerns, with potential for vermin and increased fire risk.
We’re proposing to exclude these mixed plastics in future
We’re proposing reducing the range of residential and commercial recycling we collect, to exclude plastics numbered 3,4,6 and 7.
This proposed change requires an amendment to our Waste Management and Minimisation Bylaw, and that requires us to consult with our community.
To make this change, we’d need to amend Part 3 of the Waste Management and Minimisation Bylaw Administration Manual. This is the part which deals with classification of waste and diverted material. Currently the table says that “Plastic containers identified with recycling symbol numbered 1 – 7” are accepted in the Council kerbside collection (subject to only going in the wheelie bin, washed with lids off), and at Awapuni Resource Recovery Park, Ferguson Street Recycling Centre, and the Ashhurst Transfer Station. This would need to be changed to say “…recycling symbol numbers 1, 2, and 5 only”.
We also need to amend the Prohibited Diverted Materials to include “plastic containers with the recycling symbol numbers 3, 4, 6 and 7”.
In Palmy these containers or packaging make up around 5 per cent of the average household recycling wheelie bin, and weigh on average between 400g-1kg a fortnight.
These numbers are nicknamed as mixed plastics, and the category soft plastics falls into this.
Number 3: Items made of Polyvinyl Chloride. This incudes clear trays for holding food or takeaways, some large containers with sturdy handles, and some plastic containers used for storing and packaging things like batteries or electronics.
Number 4: Items made of low-density Polyethylene. This includes some meat trays, some takeaway containers, single use bags, bubble wrap and plastic wrap.
While we haven’t accepted single use bags for some time, it’s important to remember that most bags that hold bread, biscuits, cheese, rice, pasta, sour creams, cream cheese, cooked meat packaging, frozen food, food wrap, and sauce bottles aren’t recyclable.
Number 6: Items made of Polystyrene. This includes multipack yoghurt pottles, some meat trays, foam cups and protective packaging.
Number 7: These are a mix of different things – BPA, polycarbonate, acrylic, nylon, polyactic fibres and fibreglass. These include baby bottles, sippy cups, CDs, some food packaging, plastic toys, and, packaging things like batteries or electronics.
So, where should I be putting these items now?
Until the outcome of this review next year, we will continue to collect and sort these plastics, and store them at Awapuni Resource Recovery Centre.
Is there anything else I can do?
There are some things you can do:
- Check the packaging of items when you’re shopping and if there’s another brand which is numbered 1, 2 or 5, consider that one instead. This gives you assurance that it is being recycled here in NZ.
- As a consumer, you have immense power – get in touch with who makes your favourite items and tell them you’d like it if they moved their packaging to a material that can be recycled here in NZ.
- When you’re getting takeaways, ask what number their containers are.
- Try buying bulk or take your own containers along when you’re shopping.
- Look for reusable containers and packaging like beeswax wraps.
- If you’re buying containers, look for glass or metal ones that can be recycled over and over again.
- While recycling is a great option, we all need to work harder to reduce our waste as a whole.
There’s still plenty for you to recycle
We know this might seem a bit overwhelming and confusing – but don’t give up on looking after our planet. We’re still going to be collecting the majority of what you currently put in your orange-lid wheelie bin.
We’ll still be accepting number 1s which are made from Polyethylene Terephthalate. This includes soft drink and water bottles, fruit and vege punnets, and harder plastic containers that hold peanut butter and mayonnaise.
Milk bottles, juice bottles, shampoo and cleaning bottles are all usually a number 2 and we’ll still be collecting them. They’re made of high-density Polyethylene.
Many councils around the country don’t collect number 5s either – Polypropylene. This is used for ice cream containers, large yoghurt containers, some takeaway containers, and plastic cutlery. We’re fortunate that we have a recycler right here in Palmy that does recycle these, and will continue to do so.
We’ll be continuing to collect your cans and aluminium, paper and cardboard too. And your glass crate will continue to be home for all the glass that once held your food or drink. Other glass like lightbulbs and cosmetics need to be wrapped and put in the bin.