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From the kerbside to recycling...or not 

Why is recycling important?

As you know, recycling is the process of converting waste materials, into new materials and objects.

Recycling reduces the need to grow, harvest or extract new raw materials from the Earth. The world’s natural resources are finite, and some are in very short supply.

What are the benefits of recycling?
  • To reduce harmful disruption and damage to nature;
  • To reduce the demand for raw materials;
  • Saving energy as recycled materials uses less energy than raw materials;
  • Reducing the effects of climate changing carbon emissions
    • Fewer forests cut down, rivers diverted, wild animals harmed or displaced, and less pollution of water, soil and air.

And of course if our plastic waste isn't safely put in the recycling, it can be blown or washed into rivers and sea ending up hundreds or thousands of miles away, polluting coastlines and waterways, and becoming a problem for everyone.

What happens to our recycling?

HDC has appointed Smart Environmental to collect the yellow lidded wheelie bins and glass crates. The content of these containers are taken to the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). The MRF is situated outside Thames and is a purpose built facility where the recycling is separated into different waste streams.

When other non-recyclable material gets into the wheelie bins this is considered contamination. When certain types of contaminated waste is tipped onto the conveyer belt for sorting, it can bring the machinery to a complete halt. The site shuts down so a thorough clean can be carried out.

recycle triangle sign

Since 2020, approximately 26% of the recycling that Smart collect in Hauraki wheelie bins, is contaminated.

So when someone is not taking care to place only acceptable recyclable materials in their wheelie bins and crates, this can make the efforts of those that do, a waste of time, as it means this combined pile of recycling has to be taken to the landfill.

Recycling Kopu Materials Recovery Facility
Photo taken at the Kopu MRF - 16 September 2020

Recycling conveyor at the Kopu Materials Recovery Facility
Photos of the conveyer belt at work from Kopu MFR - 16 September 2020. 

What is contaminated waste?

Anything put into your wheelie bin that is not suitable to recycle, is a contaminant.

We can only recycle: Plastics 1 / Plastics 2 / Tin and Cans / Cardboard and some papers. These need to be washed or have no food residue on them before they go into your recycling bin.

Small items, such as bottle lids, cannot be recycled either, due to the actual size of the product, even though they may be a No. 1 or 2 plastics. They fall through the conveyor and get caught up in the machinery used to sort the recycling.

What is gross contamination?

Gross contamination includes dead animals, various forms of liquids, mouldy carpets, broken electrical appliances, needles, even human waste i.e. diapers etc.

recycle triangle sign

Contaminated waste in your wheelie bin could result in your recycling service being suspended for some time. (Clause 8 of Hauraki District Council Solid Waste Bylaw 2019)

View the HDC Solid Waste Bylaw 2019 [PDF, 396 KB] PDF document

As you will see from the pictures below, your recycling from the wheelie bins is manually sorted by people when it reaches this facility. Once the gross contamination hits the conveyer belt, the entire facility is brought to a standstill. Gross contaminants poses a risk to humans sorting through the waste. This downtime not only costs money, it is a tremendous health risk to the sorters, and it wastes valuable time. 

Changes to collections

Smart Environmental has appointed an Auditor that will be working in front of all side loaders. The Auditor will be easily identified by his PPE and the wording “Auditor” on his clothing. The Auditor is responsible to check for contamination in the yellow lidded bins. In the instance of a contaminated bin, the Auditor will sticker the bin and will have a one-on-one educational talk with the occupier of the property. The property will be flagged and if contamination of the recycle bin continues, the recycling service will be revoked for a couple of months.

HDC would like to thank the residents who have good recycling behaviour. For the residents that do not think recycling is important, please spare a thought for the operators that have to sort through your contaminated recycling.

Below are pictures from contaminated bins that was not collected during the week of 15 April 2021.

recycling contaminated

We all have an important role to play to ensure the safety of our fellow humans and the environment. Let’s all work together to reduce our contamination rate.