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New Zealand’s Glass Recycling Crisis

Zero Waste New Zealand Trust
P O Box 331695

Media Release – for immediate use

Friday 17th March 2006

New Zealand’s Glass Recycling Crisis

Zero Waste New Zealand Trust is pleased to hear that the Glass Users Group of the Packaging Council has now been replaced by a new voluntary group – The Glass Packaging Forum. The Trust looks forward to a speedy resolution of the problem of what to do with all the used glass, collected for recycling, but languishing in heaps right across the country.

Jo Knight, CEO of Zero Waste, understands that the Forum will be looking into promoting economically viable alternative markets for used glass, but is concerned that the Forum has a narrow view when it talks about “viable economic solutions”.

“We all use packaging, but the modern economy requires producers to take responsibility for the whole-of-life impact of their product, including its disposal and its impact on the environment.

“We are concerned that their definition of ‘economically viable’ will not take into account the costs imposed on the community when potentially recyclable products have been collected, only to have no end use.

Zero Waste is also concerned, that while the Forum represents the whole range of companies involved in the use of glass containers, the Forum may understand that it is responsible for only 55% of glass containers, as this is all they have committed to in the Packaging Accord. This figure of 55% was the target set in 1994 for the year 2008. Right now, New Zealanders already collect and sort more than 65% of their glass containers; the Trust suggests that the Forum should now be looking forward and revising its target to 75%, with an eventual goal of 90% or more!

Sheryl Stivens, of Wastebusters Canterbury, says that her business is sitting on a huge mountain of glass. She says she is desperate for a solution to the problem. “It costs us to collect glass. And it costs to do something with the glass once we have collected it. It seems to me that the Forum and the glass container people don’t actually want to pay any of this cost or take any responsibility for the waste they are creating, especially in rural communities where tourism attracts over 1 million visitors per year and the costs are significant.
“This is the biggest threat to recycling that we have seen in NZ in 10 years.”

Jo Knight says that if the producers won’t voluntarily accept responsibility for their product, then Government will have to legislate.

“If we moved to full producer responsibility, the cost for recycling would be built into the product. It could be imposed by a levy on all glass, or government could introduce Container Deposit Legislation and require a refundable deposit on all glass containers. Either way, the funds created would ensure containers were returned, and would assist with the costs of collection and re-use,” she says.

“The funds would ensure that glass not needed or suited for smelting, was used for secondary uses such as for sand, as a component of roading aggregate, or for drainage purposes. In this area, Zero Waste applauds the fact that at last Transit NZ is moving to allow the use of 5% glass aggregate in road construction.”

The Packaging Accord was first signed off in 1996, with a new Accord agreed to in 2004. The public’s expectation of the Accord was that there would be an increased recovery of recyclables, increased recycling, and a reduction in the disposal of waste to landfill. The public has played its part; industry has not. After 8 years, it is surely time for the Government to acknowledge that voluntary measures have stalled, and legislation is required.


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