14 Apr 2020

Temporary recycling ban: get creative with rubbish, householders told

2:24 pm on 14 April 2020

Recycling is among services that have been put on hold by several councils, but that has left householders wondering what to do with ever-increasing piles of paper and plastic.

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Photo: 123RF

Residents are being urged to hang on to the materials until service is resumed, but many don't have the space to keep four weeks' worth of cardboard and glass in their homes and throwing it all into the landfill instead raises issues in its own right.

So, what can you do to help out?

There are infinite possibilities for your recycling. All you need is a bit of spare time on your hands, and a few spare materials lying around the house.

A glass jar is a future terrarium. A plastic bottle is a bug hotel in waiting. A cardboard box is crying out to be the seeds of the garden's new flower bed.

Educator at Wellington's Sustainability Trust Caroline Arrowsmith has other ideas as well.

"With jars for example, I'd encourage people to look into doing things like making jam and chutney, preserves, [and] things like that. Or [you can] use them to store their spices or their dry goods."

More empty wine bottles at home than normal? No problem.

"You can use them to infuse oil or vinegar," she said. "Fill them with a nice oil or vinegar, put in sprigs of herbs or chillies or garlic."

Kids bored at home? Get them involved.

"People can get really creative with their recycling, and make sculptures or costumes. With World of Wearable Arts cancelled this year, maybe we could have a World of Wearable Waste."

The Sustainability Trust has a range of other options that anyone can use to repurpose their recycling. They're also staging a competition for the best uses of recycling, with prizes.

People are being advised to ensure the glass jars and wine bottles are thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated of what was previously being stored in there.

The designer Gillian Saunders has for the first time been named the Supreme Award Winner of the World of Wearable Art competition with her design 'Supernova'.

There is no World of Wearable Arts event this year but people can still get creative at home with a World of Wearable Waste, one advocate says. Photo: Supplied / World of Wearable Arts

Councils putting a halt to recycling

Wellington is one of a number of places where recycling services have been stopped, along with New Plymouth, Christchurch and Dunedin, although in other cities, it's continued, such as in Auckland.

Understandably, not everyone has the space to keep four weeks' worth of recyclable products, so instead, the message is to prioritise: keep hold of the most valuable items which are glass, cardboard and PET plastic.

Wellington's waste operations manager, Emily Taylor-Hall, said that's so when the service resumes, councils are not overwhelmed by an influx of recycling, which they then can't process.

"Obviously, we need to consider, when we start collection, we need to look at the ability of the sorting facility to process a month's worth of recycling on day one of reopening.

"We want to focus on processing the really high-value recyclables."

Wellington City councillor Tamatha Paul, who looks after the climate change portfolio, is joining in the calls for people to stockpile.

She said we still need to continue trying to reduce our footprint.

"The environment can't take the backburner during all crises - that's just not going to work and it's just going to make our transition costs even more expensive."

Now is the perfect time to look to move to zero-waste products, she said.

"Especially given people are going into overdrive with getting their sanitiser and their soap, there are zero-waste options out there, and they are affordable, and they can still be shipped, and they are shipped in zero-waste packaging."

Recycling glass needed to keep the circular market going

Keeping your recycling away from the landfill does has another positive aspect: it keeps glass being produced using old bottles, rather than using new materials.

The country's only glass furnace, based in Auckland, makes around 85,000 bottles per hour, per day.

The glass containers produced at the furnace are made of an average 69 percent of recycled materials.

Dominic Salmon is the manager for the Glass Packaging Forum - the organisation that speaks on behalf of all parties involved in the recycling chain - helping councils, processers and recyclers improve their recycling output.

He said the more recycled glass they can use, the better it is for the environment.

"Recycled glass replaces virgin material. So it's a really good way of reducing your environmental footprint.

"The more virgin material we use, the higher the carbon footprint, the more energy we use, whereas recycled glass has a much lower footprint."

The Wellington City Council said they don't know when recycling services will resume - they're awaiting direction from the government around when the lockdown will end, and which alert level the country will return to.

In the meantime, people are being urged: hold onto it, prioritise the most valuable items, and if you're feeling creative, repurpose that recycling.

Fresh off the truck, recycling going onto the first conveyor belts to begin the sorting process at Oji.

The conveyor belt has been turned off in Wellington, and the council has no idea when recycling services will resume. Photo: Supplied Wellington City Council

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