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NZ leads the world in understanding plastic recycling

Aotearoa New Zealand leads the world in understanding national plastic recycling habits

29 January 2020, Auckland: New Zealand households dispose of 1.76 billion plastic containers in their kerbside recycling and rubbish bins each year. This is just one of the many statistics revealed in a world-first research project conducted by the Waste Management Institute of New Zealand (WasteMINZ) supported by funding from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE).

In the ground-breaking audit, contents from the rubbish and recycling bins of 867 New Zealand households from 8 locations around the country were sorted, counted and analysed by hand. The deep-dive study demonstrated that the number of plastic containers in kerbside rubbish and recycling bins surpasses the combined annual number of containers made from metal (767 million per annum) and glass (854 million per annum).

The report has found that in household rubbish and recycling:

• 39 per cent (by weight) of household plastic bottles and containers that have the potential to be recycled go to landfill.

• We place an estimated 97 million plastic drink and milk bottles in household rubbish bins instead of recycling bins.

• Only 2,600 tonnes of household grocery packaging made from plastics 3, 4, 6, and 7 are disposed of via kerbside collections, compared with the estimated 41,300 tonnes of packaging made from plastics 1, 2 and 5.

Announcing the results of the research, Parul Sood chair of WasteMINZ TAO Forum says, “This in-depth study is the first of its kind in Aotearoa New Zealand. The report indicates clearly that we need to re-consider our plastic recycling from all angles, from how we sort our recycling at home to how we collect it and perhaps most especially how manufacturers design their packaging.”

It also shows where there’s a lot of room for improvement in our recycling practices, from both a consumer and a business perspective. “Improved labelling, the choice of plastic used when designing packaging, and standardising nationally the plastic packaging accepted for kerbside recycling to make it easier for Kiwis to know what can and can’t be recycled - all of these actions can improve our recycling rates,” Parul continues.

The report fills in some of the key data gaps outlined in the December 2019 report on ‘Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand’ from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor (CSA), Juliet Gerrard. Dr Rachel Chiaroni-Clarke from the Office of the CSA comments, “I’m so pleased to see the results of this research. It provides the level of detail we need to understand the issues with household plastic waste and develop solutions. This is an excellent example of the kind of information we need to take Aotearoa New Zealand forward.”

Says Janine Brinsdon, WasteMINZ Chief Executive, “This research has signalled clearly the pathway for change, both in consumer habits and the opportunities for businesses to redesign their packaging to improve its recyclability. New Zealand is the first country in the world to have such an in-depth understanding of its kerbside recycling of plastic; together let’s make our country one of the first to change those numbers for the better.”

The full report is available on request to media and to WasteMINZ members only.


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