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Not all plastic is fantastic - FAQs

Why are we making this change?

Historically there has been an overseas demand for plastic grades 3-7. However the demand collapsed after China (who used to buy 50 percent of the world’s recycling), no longer accepted the quantity of material they used to. Many New Zealand sorting centres, including Kopu, were stockpiling grades 3-7 in the hopes the market would re-open, but this has never eventuated. Without an overseas or local buyer it is no longer practical or cost effective to collect or stockpile these plastics.

Is it still worthwhile recycling?

Absolutely, and we encourage you to recycle clean plastic grades 1-2 as much as you can to ensure these fully recyclable items do not end up in landfill or polluting waterways.

What are plastic grades 1-2?

Drink and sports bottles, water bottles, milk bottles, cleaning products and personal care bottles (shampoo, conditioner and body wash). All of these must have their lids removed and be rinsed clean – if you can’t get the lid off to rinse the bottle clean, don’t recycle it.

How can I tell what number each plastic is?

The majority of plastic has a triangle with a number on the bottom of it. (see below). We are only accepting plastic grades with a 1 or 2 in the triangle. If plastic has a number but no triangle, or vice versa, it is not recyclable. If in doubt about the type of plastic put it into the rubbish.

Can I still put plastics grades 3-7 into my recycling bin?

No, from 1 June 2020 all this recycling will be considered contamination and end up in landfill. We know it’s hard to put these in to the rubbish bin when you’ve been able to recycle them up until now, but the reality is, these can’t recycled – they’ve just been piling up in storage.

Please don’t ‘wishcyle’ and place plastic grades 3-7 into your recycling bin because you wish it can be recycled, or in the hope it might get recycled. It won’t be.

How will the contractor know if I am recycling properly?

Smart Environmental, our rubbish and recycling contractors, will be auditing wheelie bins. If your bin contains anything except clean plastic grades 1-2, paper and cardboard or clean tins, it will get a red ticket and will not be collected by contractors until the bin is cleaned out and is once again compliant.

What happens if my wheelie bin isn’t compliant?

It will get a red ticket attached to it and won’t be collected until it is cleaned out and is once again compliant.

Why aren’t we recycling grade 5?

There is only a limited local market for Plastics 5 and they are at capacity. For example, there is a manufacturer in Southland recycling plastic grades 5, however it is not cost effective to send it all there with no guarantees they can keep up with demand or that it won’t end up in landfill.

Will I get a rates reduction?

No, your rubbish and recycling is still being collected, sorted and recycled. We will still get a bill from the contractors for this service, and we still have to pay it.

Can I still recycle plastic grades 3-7 at transfer stations?

No, as there is no viable market for these plastics, plastic grades 3-7 will not be accepted and should go in your Council rubbish bag.

What do I do with plastic grades 3-7 now?

All plastic grades 3-7 will now need to go into your yellow Council bag for collection. Please do not burn these plastics; this is more harmful to the environment.

How can I reduce my household rubbish and avoid buying plastic that can’t be recycled?

Recyling isn’t the only answer to reducing household waste. The best approach is to follow the waste hierarchy:

  • Refuse: simply don’t buy it and research sustainable alternatives
  • Reduce: minimise the amount you buy
  • Reuse: choose products you can use again and again (make your own yoghurt instead of individual yoghurt pottles and put a serving size in a reusable container – add frozen berries to keep cool in lunchboxes)
  • Recycle: reprocess to produce new products
  • Compost: Place organic waste into a compost bin for the vegetable garden, add to a worm farm or have organic waste collected by a green waste company
Will the size of the rubbish bags be increased to cope with the extra rubbish?

No, this would increase costs, which would in turn increase rates. The cost of rubbish bags is what pays for their collection and disposal – so the best way to minimise these costs for your household is to minimise your rubbish

What are other Councils doing?

We have a joint approach with Matamata-Piako and Thames-Coromandel District Councils, so they are also only accepting plastic grades 1-2. Waipa District Council have also recently made this change, as have many other Councils around the country (like Gisborne, Queenstown, South Waikato, Porirua, Napier, Nelson, and more).

What is Council doing to reduce its rubbish?

- We know we need to lead by example.
- Our Councillors have gone paperless, wherever practicable. Our boardroom is now digital, so gone are the days of paper agendas. Council departments are also following suit and reducing or eliminating all paper, instead using digital options wherever possible.
- We help fund Enviroschools, teaching sustainability to our tamariki
- We have a Solid Waste Working party that oversees the solid waste contract and is actively looking for ways our communities can reduce waste heading for landfill and ensure our Transfer Stations are working to their greatest potential, making that experience easy for all its users and as environmentally friendly as possible.
- We have been working through a review of our Joint Waste Minimisation and Management Plan with Matamata-Piako and Thames-Coromandel District Councils. The Plan aims to encourage people to minimise household rubbish and become more sustainable. Following on from this work, we need to agree on our district’s approach to waste minimisation as part of our plans for the next 10 years, which took effect from 1 July 2018.