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Recycling change in the wind

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A decision on ‘where to from here’ for plastic recycling in the face of rapidly changing recycling markets will be made this week.

Hastings District Council will consider options at its monthly meeting on Thursday [March 28].

The meeting report details the national and international market situation, which has seen almost all of the traditional markets closing their borders to the importation of used plastics.

The report recommends that the collection of plastics be limited to the types that markets will take for recycling.

It would affect about seven per cent of the total recycling pool (made up of plastics, cans, paper and cardboard, and glass). That equated to about half of the current plastic collection, from both kerbside and drop-off centres, which would have to go to landfill.

Council’s other options are to: Continue collecting plastics as it does now and stockpiling it while trying to find new markets; collecting all plastics and then separating out those that can be recycled and sending the rest to landfill; stopping all plastic recycling collection.

Almost all plastics are stamped with a number from 1 to 7, which shows what type of plastic they are made from.

There has never been a market for plastics without a number (they must be disposed of with general rubbish) and there are now almost no markets for plastics marked 3 to 7. The few that remain are diminishing rapidly, said Council’s asset management group manager Craig Thew.

There are, however, markets for some plastics marked 1 or 2, both in New Zealand and overseas.

Until the end of last month, Council’s contractors had been able to find markets for all of the plastics they collected, however that was no longer the case and the plastic was now being stockpiled until a decision was made.

Council is committed to sharing all information it has on recycling with residents to encourage everyone to make wise shopping decisions, particularly when buying goods in plastic.

“Sharing all the information will also help prevent ‘wish-cycling’; thinking we are all doing the right thing when that is not the case. Until now, Hastings has not had to stockpile or landfill its recycling as some other councils have had to, and we want to maintain this as much as we can,” said Mr Thew.

The report recommends that Council limit collection to plastic bottles stamped with the numbers 1 or 2 for which there is a market. It notes that the majority of markets will only take bottles that are opaque or clear (not coloured, white or light-proof) even if marked 1 or 2.

“That will mean that taking all bottles stamped 1 or 2 may require Council to sort the coloured plastics from the pool and take those to the landfill,” said Mr Thew.

“Another possibility is that Council collects only the clear and opaque non-coloured bottles.”

The full report prepared for the meeting is available on here: http://hastings.infocouncil.biz/Open/2019/03/COR_28032019_AGN_4274_AT.PDF (page 31).

The Council’s decision will be advised in a press release, on its Facebook page, and on its website as soon as possible following the meeting. Any change will be implemented over a four-week period, to allow time to get the required information out to residents.

26 March 2019

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