Crushed can of Coca Cola.
23 April 2021

New Zealand packaging recycling second-worst in global trial

Aotearoa’s clean green reputation takes a hit in our global packaging recycling assessment.

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Trevor B
12 Mar 2022
Waste reduction vs CO2

There are two issues with product containers and packaging. The first, covered in this article, is recyclability. The second is the total CO2 emissions in producing the packaging and in recycling the waste product. Coca Cola cans are very recyclable but how much CO2 was produced when making the cans? Maybe plastic would be better.
The elimination of the plastic one-use shopping bags has been great for the environment, but when I see a shopper leaving a supermarket with several heavy duty paper bags I ponder how much CO2 was produced making them - probably a lot more than the same number of plastic bags. The law of unintended consequences often comes into play with our efforts to reduce environmental harms.

Antonia A.
12 Mar 2022
It’s worse than that

I’m not sure that was a good representative grocery sample. Our hard plastic recycling seems to be around 70-80% no 5 - which is not recyclable at all. It breaks my heart to be having to send such a huge quantity of plastic to landfill. I try to reduce buying it as much as possible but there’s often no choice if you need the product. We need better recycling facilities stat!

Anke F.
22 Aug 2021
Green Washing packaging must be stopped

Thanks for this article on a topic that bothers me every single day! The worst about it all is that there is so much green washing. All the time I see "100% recyclable" and similar claims on packaging which I practically cannot recycle as there are not recycling options in Dunedin.
I think that such claims should only be allowed for products that can be recycled in at least 90% of the country. Everything else is green washing and people will never understand that when they buy this product the packaging will just add on to the never ending pile of plastic waste that we already have in our world.

Martyn R.
30 Apr 2021
glass is the greenest option

Whenever I can I choose a product packaged in glass.
That is OK for some products like jam, soft drinks, sauces and some coffee (like your example) and beer.
Little else.
I want to buy bread that isn't in a #@%$(*&! plastic bag!
I want to buy milk that isn't surrounded by @#*&@! plastic!
There isn't any where I live.
I am hanging out for Happy Cow to get started up here.
They keep telling us that they have encountered problems.
Who is causing the problems?
Fonterra - wanting to keep their virtual monopoly on their dull plastic wrapped milk?
I wonder!

Bill E.
08 May 2021
using milk powder to make milk

I started reconstituting milk powder (less than $10 per kg, which makes 10 litres of milk) when I discovered I could make my favourite yoghurt for less than $2 a litre, when it costs $8 to buy.
Then started using it for milk (using cheap digital scales, powder and water into a recycled glass bottle with screw on lid). Its quick and easy and I can have it whenever I need. I live in a small town with a grocery shop that shuts at 7.30 and I often don't get back here in the evenings till after that.
The taste is so similar to what I buy in the shop that I'm thinking that the shop bought milk is possibly reconstituted from powder too.
Powdered milk is available full fat, low fat and skim.
I recently did the sums and found I'm saving more than $500 per year, that's the combined milk and yoghurt saving.
And no plastic milk bottles to get rid of.
I'm also hanging out for bread in a paper bag..

Chris S.
25 Apr 2021
NZ's closet skeletons just keep on rattling..........

Despite every NZ resident knowing for decades that un-stabilized plastics will reduce to powder when exposed to our blistering UV levels AND recently discovering that this powdered micro plastic is clogging the very arteries of our soil, waterways and eventually the oceans we all rely on for our very lives, the NZ government (presumably NZ residents all) has STILL not introduced a blanket ban on the importation, manufacture or sale of said un-stabilized plastics.
Result? Untold tons of plastic products annually turned into powdering scrap in soil, landfill and waterways.

Recycle it? How do you recycle this stuff when it disintegrates at a touch?

If NZ will not ban un-stabilized plastics, the only thing green about NZ's "clean green image" is the copious mold growing behind the sign.

Chris S.

James C.
24 Apr 2021

For 20 years NZ Governments have been inept in dealing with recycling. Promoting a clean, green image is folly when our recycling capabilities are so woefully. We are a small country and logic would indicate central government is best to establish national centralised recycling facilities for the likes of plastic. Unlike many leading countries, we don't even have subsidies to drive uptake of green initiatives like solar power and electric vehicles.

Consumers are rightly angry for being told to recycle for two decades, only to now learn that plastic was shipped off to China before they stopped accepting it. Incumbent Government politicians should be ashamed of themselves. We should first deal with the methane emitted from the Beehive before worrying about cows.

roy s.
24 Apr 2021
Clutha district.

Our council doesn't allow glass in our recycling bins, so it goes to landfill in a rubbish collection that only happens once a fortnight. Our rubbish bin is overflowing by the end of the fortnight and our recycling bin, which also gets collected fortnightly, takes 6 weeks to fill up.

Anke F.
22 Aug 2021

Oh man, now I understand why so many bottles end up in the Clutha river. Whenever we visit the Clutha mouth on a weekend, we take a lot of glass bottles (and aluminium cans and plastic bottles) with us to put in our yellow bin in Dunedin.

Steve S.
24 Apr 2021
Stepping up

We're long past the point where we can bundle up all our recyclable rubbish and send it overseas, so government, suppliers and consumers need to step up. In my area (Matamata-Piako) only glass, paper, tins and hard plastics stamped with a 1 or a 2 are accepted. Everything else goes to landfill as Council just can find recycling options for it.

- Don't let waste disposal costs fall on the community. Impose taxes on materials that can't be recycled to change behaviour
- Facilitate re-use and recycling schemes (eg refillable bottles)
- Provide local recycling facilities where possible
- Use minimum packaging necessary for hygiene and safety
- Use materials that can be readily recycled
- Make the recycling numbers bigger and more prominent!
- Choose products with no packaging or minimal recyclable/reusable packaging and recycle appropriately.

As a community we have to do so much better than we're doing. The amount of waste going to landfill to be buried and not decompose for hundreds of years is simply appalling, and a real indictment on our throw-away culture.

The 8 "R"s come to mind here:
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Refill, Repair, Regift, Recycle, Repeat

Let's do it!

24 Apr 2021
Cohesion needed

IF N.Z had a nationwide rubbish collection system, at least then people would not be so confused by different Council collection methods, and regulations, that they give up trying....Maybe then there would be enough bulk for processing plants in both South and North Islands....Bring in the 10c per glass/plastic bottles too and watch the cleanup.

Anke F.
22 Aug 2021
Could not agree more

So true. The different regulations across the country is confusing people and allows businesses to green wash their products (e.g. NZ post saying their soft plastic bags are recyclable, which is actually not true for most regions - and the efficiency of soft plastic recycling is highly questionable anyways).
Introducing a deposit scheme led to an out-cry in Germany 30 years ago, but was rapidly accepted and shown to be super efficient.

Brad M.
24 Apr 2021
Soft plastics in Northland

Thanks, an excellent article which makes it pretty clear what to look for in your buying. Here in Northland we can only take number 1 and milk bottle 2s ( no other 2s) for recycling, no food grade packaging (no 5) are accepted. We have significantly reduced our plastic consumption simply by making our own yoghurt and refilling bathroom products and dishwash. But it is still maddening how much soft plastic we end up with. You say there is a soft plastic recycling point in Northland - where is it?

Sam Y.
24 Apr 2021
Aluminium not recyclable; steel only recyclable in NI

Kia ora Consumer,
I suspect the situation is worse than the research shows. When I checked last, aluminium - while theoretically recyclable - was practically not, as we do not have a NZ aluminium resmelter. At present it appears to be not 'worth' sending the aluminium offshore for resmelting. Aluminium is chipped awaiting potential use, but when storage gets full, I assume it may be landfilled? This includes all those 'recyclable' coffee pods.
Further, I heard from someone in the industry that there is only one NZ steel resmelter, near Auckland. It is too expensive to send steel across the Cook Strait for resmelting, so SI steel is landfilled.
Only glass can be used for base-course on the roads. So we can buy glass...
Pretty poor, eh.

28 Apr 2021
Aluminium not recyclable in NZ

I'm pretty sure the metal recyclers in NZ don't just dump the aluminium they purchase of their customers. They are able to send aluminium overseas in large volumes

Willem D.
24 Apr 2021
Council responsibility

Thanks for an excellent article. Councils need to step up too. Blenheim still uses he small green bins and refuses to switch over to wheelie bins. It limits the amount you can recycle and a lot of recyclable material end up in rubbish bags. These small bins overflow, spilling out onto the sidewalk and even the road when the wind blows. This needs to be fixed!

Anke F.
22 Aug 2021
Dunedin City Council experience

Agree the councils have some responsibility, too. In Dunedin, we can no longer put any lids/small particles in the recylcling bin, also no containers larger than 3L. This seems to be to new machines which may be blocked by small particles and are unable to process big ones. Unfortunately, there is also no real advice on what else to do with those items. Can metal lids be brought to a scrap metal dealer? Will the Green Island landfill take plastic lids as they use different machines? Can I cut big containers into smaller pieces to make them suitable? There is really not much support and collaboration between the DCC and other providers to practically solve problems. I am really committed to avoid waste, but it is extremely exhausting and complicated.