What is happening to our soft plastic recycling?

by Sarah Robson / 12 September, 2018

The soft plastic recycling scheme, run by the Packaging Forum, has been operating since 2015 and now covers about 70 percent of the country. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

RelatedArticlesModule - Plastics

Packaging and other material that's been put in soft plastic recycling bins has ended up in storage, because the Australian company that was taking it has been inundated.

The soft plastic recycling scheme, run by the Packaging Forum, has been operating since 2015 and now covers about 70 percent of the country, with further expansion planned.

The material being put in the bins in supermarkets had been going to a company in Australia, to be turned into things like park benches, bollards and playground equipment.

But the scheme's manager, Lyn Mayes, said the company wasn't taking soft plastic from New Zealand anymore, because it was getting too much.

Ms Mayes said the scheme had been looking for a local company to process it instead.

"We have actually signed a supply agreement with a new company and we'll be making some announcements around that very soon," she said.

In the meantime, a lot of that soft plastic is being kept in storage and stockpiled until it can be recycled, or it is being used in processing trials. The scheme was also looking at other recycling options overseas, Ms Mayes said.

But she said they had found that processors had become a lot fussier about the quality of plastic they were being sent. That meant people needed to be much more careful about what they were putting in the bins, Ms Mayes said.

"If people do put in metals, or coffee cups, or drink containers, then that will contaminate the whole bag."

Those bags would not then be collected.

Waste consultant Sandra Murray said part of the problem was soft plastic couldn't be sold to recyclers, unlike other materials, like PET plastic.

"That has a value, you can sell it to someone who wants it, but the soft plastic material doesn't really have much value at all, so either you have to pay someone, or not recycle it."

Ms Murray didn't think people would be too impressed their soft plastic was sitting in storage, waiting to be recycled.

"If people have gone to all this effort, they have an expectation that it is going to be recycled, but if it's just being stockpiled, that's not what people are expecting is going to happen, and if it ends up in landfill because there isn't a proper recycling outlet for it, then that's not what people were expecting either," she said.

Last year, 365 tonnes of soft plastic was collected by the recycling scheme. That figure was expected to grow to 600 tonnes this year.

The soft plastic recycling scheme got some initial funding from the government, but it is now fully funded by the packaging industry.

This article was first published on Radio NZ.

Latest

Scottish-Bengali crime writer Abir Mukherjee on his 'cultural schizophrenia'
98517 2018-11-14 00:00:00Z Books

Scottish-Bengali crime writer Abir Mukherjee on hi…

by Craig Sisterson

Abir Mukherjee uses India’s painful struggle for independence as the backdrop for his Sam Wyndham detective stories.

Read more
Lunchtime legends: 5 hospo stalwarts on Auckland's restaurant evolution
93848 2018-11-14 00:00:00Z Auckland Eats

Lunchtime legends: 5 hospo stalwarts on Auckland's…

by Alice Neville

Restaurant veterans Chris Rupe, Krishna Botica, Tony Adcock, Geeling Ching and Judith Tabron reflect on the Auckland dining scene.

Read more
Best Auckland BYO restaurants where the food is good too
97751 2018-11-14 00:00:00Z Auckland Eats

Best Auckland BYO restaurants where the food is go…

by Metro

Head to one of these Metro Top 50 Cheap Eats and 50 under $50 restaurants for BYO dining that won't break the bank.

Read more
Get a lesson in mezcal at new Snickel Lane bar La Fuente
99033 2018-11-14 00:00:00Z Auckland Eats

Get a lesson in mezcal at new Snickel Lane bar La …

by Jean Teng

Mezcal was once regarded as a tipple for the lower-class – now it's the hero at new bar La Fuente.

Read more
Forget the love trysts, our relationship with China is a much bigger affair
98673 2018-11-13 00:00:00Z Politics

Forget the love trysts, our relationship with Chin…

by Bevan Rapson

Ross’s tape didn’t stand up his allegations of electoral fraud, but it helpfully drew renewed attention to questions about Chinese influence in NZ.

Read more
Bill Ralston: Simon Bridges looks like a dead man walking
98830 2018-11-13 00:00:00Z Politics

Bill Ralston: Simon Bridges looks like a dead man …

by Bill Ralston

The National Party’s ongoing ructions suggest a long spell in the wilderness lies ahead.

Read more
The history of NZ newspapers would shame the Facebook generation
98735 2018-11-13 00:00:00Z History

The history of NZ newspapers would shame the Faceb…

by Karl du Fresne

In the 19th century, there were more newspapers in New Zealand per head of population than anywhere else in the world says writer Ian F Grant.

Read more
How politicians' words influence other people's actions
98985 2018-11-13 00:00:00Z Psychology

How politicians' words influence other people's ac…

by Marc Wilson

Politicians like to pretend their words don’t influence others’ actions, but if that’s so, why utter them?

Read more