24 Apr 2021

Poor score for New Zealand's recycling systems - Consumer NZ

6:30 pm on 24 April 2021

New Zealand's recycling capabilities have been put to shame in an international survey.

Hundreds of Napier residents have complained about their recycling not being picked up.

New Zealand came second to last in Consumers International's recycling survey with more than half of the packaging assessed as not recyclable (file image). Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Consumers International, of which Consumer NZ is a member, assessed 11 products available across nine countries to see how well they could be recycled.

New Zealand came second to last, with more than half of the packaging assessed as not recyclable.

Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said that was partly because recycling availability across the country was varied.

"Depending on where you live, the plastics that you put out in your recycling may or may not be able to be recycled," Duffy said.

"And because we can't say, as a country, we are able to recycle x-type of plastic, we then have to say for the whole country that it's not available because it has to be available to everybody in the country. So that's let us down."

Given the amount of recycling material in New Zealand, it was unlikely to be economical to have recycling facilities for all plastics in all parts of the country, he said.

"You need a big volume of that item going through and it seems odd to say but we're not producing enough waste to justify [that].

"So we need to be really clever about the type of packaging we allow into the country in the first place."

The research found no assessed product was 100 percent recyclable in all countries.

"We're being offered products by manufacturers with non-recyclable packaging, so even if we had the best recycling programmes in the world there are products that we're buying that have components in their packaging that simply can't be recycled."

Duffy gave the example of a "Frankenstein's monster" Pringles chip packet.

"It has plastic, cardboard, foil and an aluminium metal base. A lot of those component parts can be recycled but because they're all stuck together the economics of pulling them apart means that they don't, they just go straight into landfill."

A comprehensive product stewardship scheme was required, he said.

"At the moment you buy the Pringles, then it's on you, it's your responsibility to minimise the environmental impact of that purchasing decision.

"Why should all the responsibility for cleaning up after the purchase fall on the consumer, when it's been created by the manufacturer for choosing to package in that way."

Products assessed were available in each country. The five products that had packaging not easily recyclable in Aotearoa were:

  • KitKat chocolate bar
  • M&M Peanut chocolates
  • Pringles chips
  • San Pellegrino Sparkling Water
  • Toblerone chocolate bar

Fifty-seven percent of packaging could not be recycled in New Zealand, compared to Australia where only 14 percent could not be recycled.

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