Recycling right is not easy. For a start you need super hero vision to read those squidgy recycling numbers on the bottom of plastic packaging.
But plastic waste is a local and global scourge so we need to put in the effort to recycle – where we can – and we’re all being asked to do a few things differently when we put stuff in the crate from now on.
Turns out nearly 40% of plastic containers that could be recycled are instead being dumped in landfill.
So, get out your magnifying glass if need be; check the bottom of your waste plastic and if it has a 1, 2 or 5 inside the little arrow recycling triangle put it in your recycling crate.
Only 1, 2 and 5 are accepted so let’s not “wish cycle” – which is what it’s called when we put 3,4,6 and 7 plastics in the recycling bin in hope. They can’t be recycled, either because there are no markets or if there are they are of little or no value. (If you can refuse products in those containers.)
No lids. Lids are of different material and can’t be recycled. Put them in the rubbish.
Wash and separate. Think quality. Think people handling this material, and remember all waste is considered infectious waste, so dirty products in crates may be left behind.
Put glass in one recycling crate (no lids) and plastic (1,2 & 5) and tins or cans together in the other. If you only have one crate put things out on alternate weeks or contact the Waikato District Council to get another crate.
Place cardboard/paper between or under a crate or in a cardboard box not in the crate. Cardboard and paper can be no larger than 50cm x 50cm x 50cm. Make sure all cardboard and paper out of your recycling crates.
If we all stick to the guidelines more product will get recycled and less will go to landfill.
Why the new, stricter regime?
For a very long time, other countries, mainly China have accepted our waste as it is (mixed and contaminated) and removed what is good very cheaply.
In 2017, China signalled that it was not prepared to continue accepting contaminated waste streams. Other countries followed – Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam – and have created strict criteria for what is acceptable, how it will be accepted, and the consequences of flouting the criteria. A shipping container opened and found to be overly contaminated can be returned to the country of origin.
New Zealand is a signatory to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes, which comes into effect in January 2021. This means New Zealand cannot continue to export waste that will cause negative impact to people and the environment in another country.
The Ministry for the Environment has been working closely with councils, the recovery sector, and industry to address the challenges for waste and recycling in New Zealand.
The recommendations on standardising collection systems and improving material quality was released in May 2020.
The government wants New Zealand to move away from the hard-to-recycle products and single-use items. It has two proposals that would help us do that on which it recently consulted.