Taskforce working on resource recovery recommendations

Gisborne faces recycling changes. A report to Gisborne District Council's assets and infrastructure committee stated plastic grades 3 to 7 would now need to be landfilled as waste "until there is a viable option available". HB Today picture

Changes to international trade policies are being blamed for the move to plastic yoghurt pots, paper milk cartons and takeaway food containers being dumped in landfill sites.

A report to Gisborne District Council’s assets and infrastructure committee stated plastic grades 3 to 7 would now need to be landfilled as waste “until there is a viable option available”.

The report from the council’s liveable communities department said Waste Management NZ had already stopped commercial recycling of plastic grades 3-7 in Gisborne.

“Waste Management NZ is council’s city kerbside collection contractor and has advised it is no longer able to recycle plastic grades 3-7.”

In the short term, the plastics will still be collected in kerbside bins before being sorted into recyclables (grade 1 and 2) and landfill (grades 3-7). However, over time, residents will be asked to stop putting plastic grades 3-7 in their recycling bins.

The report stated the council was developing “a comprehensive communication and culture change programme”. The changes would also mean increased costs for the council.

The report stated that from the end of 2017 China banned the import of 24 grades of waste, including household plastics and mixed paper.

Malaysia was also in the process of banning imports of all non-recyclables from overseas.

The plastics no longer able to be recycled include PVC, which is used in medicine blister packs; low density polyethylene, used in cold and warm beverage cups; polypropylene, used in yoghurt cups and food containers; and polystyrene or styrofoam, used in disposable plates and cups.

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage said the Government was working through recommendations made by the National Resource Recovery Taskforce, and an announcement on what next steps to take was expected in March.

“China’s National Sword policy has impacted global commodity prices for recyclables, which has placed pressure on New Zealand’s recycling and resource recovery sector,” she said.

This was a key driver in establishing the taskforce in mid-2018.

“We have also taken the opportunity to look broadly at how our resource recovery system is functioning, and how well it aligns with the Government’s ambition to support more onshore processing of recyclables, and help New Zealand shift to a circular economy approach with improved product design and more materials recovery and re-use.

“The taskforce sought expertise from Australia and ran a collaborative process with working groups from the resource recovery industry and local councils.”

The taskforce’s findings aimed to address immediate issues and impacts in the recycling sector, including reviewing nationwide recycling infrastructure and services, and the domestic and commercial collections currently in place.

It will also aim to build a more resilient resource recovery sector in New Zealand in the medium term, including investing in onshore infrastructure and service improvement.

It will also enable long-term system change through regulations and other instruments.

“The Ministry for the Environment is working through the detail of these three work streams and how they align with existing projects in the Government’s priority work programme for waste.

“This work programme, which I announced in August, includes expanding the Waste Disposal Levy to all landfills; improving our national data on waste and resource recovery; investing more strategically in infrastructure and innovation to support resource recovery; mandatory product stewardship for problem products like vehicle tyres and e-waste; and developing a national circular economy strategy to design waste out of the system.”

Changes to international trade policies are being blamed for the move to plastic yoghurt pots, paper milk cartons and takeaway food containers being dumped in landfill sites.

A report to Gisborne District Council’s assets and infrastructure committee stated plastic grades 3 to 7 would now need to be landfilled as waste “until there is a viable option available”.

The report from the council’s liveable communities department said Waste Management NZ had already stopped commercial recycling of plastic grades 3-7 in Gisborne.

“Waste Management NZ is council’s city kerbside collection contractor and has advised it is no longer able to recycle plastic grades 3-7.”

In the short term, the plastics will still be collected in kerbside bins before being sorted into recyclables (grade 1 and 2) and landfill (grades 3-7). However, over time, residents will be asked to stop putting plastic grades 3-7 in their recycling bins.

The report stated the council was developing “a comprehensive communication and culture change programme”. The changes would also mean increased costs for the council.

The report stated that from the end of 2017 China banned the import of 24 grades of waste, including household plastics and mixed paper.

Malaysia was also in the process of banning imports of all non-recyclables from overseas.

The plastics no longer able to be recycled include PVC, which is used in medicine blister packs; low density polyethylene, used in cold and warm beverage cups; polypropylene, used in yoghurt cups and food containers; and polystyrene or styrofoam, used in disposable plates and cups.

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage said the Government was working through recommendations made by the National Resource Recovery Taskforce, and an announcement on what next steps to take was expected in March.

“China’s National Sword policy has impacted global commodity prices for recyclables, which has placed pressure on New Zealand’s recycling and resource recovery sector,” she said.

This was a key driver in establishing the taskforce in mid-2018.

“We have also taken the opportunity to look broadly at how our resource recovery system is functioning, and how well it aligns with the Government’s ambition to support more onshore processing of recyclables, and help New Zealand shift to a circular economy approach with improved product design and more materials recovery and re-use.

“The taskforce sought expertise from Australia and ran a collaborative process with working groups from the resource recovery industry and local councils.”

The taskforce’s findings aimed to address immediate issues and impacts in the recycling sector, including reviewing nationwide recycling infrastructure and services, and the domestic and commercial collections currently in place.

It will also aim to build a more resilient resource recovery sector in New Zealand in the medium term, including investing in onshore infrastructure and service improvement.

It will also enable long-term system change through regulations and other instruments.

“The Ministry for the Environment is working through the detail of these three work streams and how they align with existing projects in the Government’s priority work programme for waste.

“This work programme, which I announced in August, includes expanding the Waste Disposal Levy to all landfills; improving our national data on waste and resource recovery; investing more strategically in infrastructure and innovation to support resource recovery; mandatory product stewardship for problem products like vehicle tyres and e-waste; and developing a national circular economy strategy to design waste out of the system.”

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