Nelson first to test kerbside soft plastics collection

8:47 pm on 4 April 2024
The soft plastic recycling scheme, run by the Packaging Forum, has been operating since 2015 and now covers about 70 percent of the country.

The soft plastic recycling scheme, run by the Packaging Forum, has been operating since 2015 and now covers about 70 percent of the country. Photo: Facebook / Love NZ Soft Plastics Recycling

Nelson is set to be the first region in the country to test out the kerbside collection of soft plastics - as part of a trial by The Packaging Forum.

Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme manager Lyn Mayes said around 1.5 tonnes of soft plastic is currently collected each month in Nelson and recycled into fence posts at the Future Post plant in Blenheim].

The collection scheme was first launched in New Zealand 2015 but stopped in 2018 when the offshore plants processing the country's plastic no longer wanted it. It was reintroduced in 2019 in partnership with Future Post, meaning every piece collected was processed in New Zealand.

Last year, more than 700 tonnes of soft plastics were collected across the country and Mayes said it was planning to collect 12,000 tonnes this year, in order to meet the demand from New Zealand's three processing plants.

"There is about 8500 tonnes of soft plastic in the post consumer space - bread bags, frozen food bags and the like - and our recycling rate currently is about eight percent and we want to double that in the next year."

In a presentation to the Nelson City Council today, Mayes said the recovery rate of soft plastics could be increased further if the process was easier for the consumer.

Research showed around 15 percent of people would make an effort to take soft plastics to a collection point, and Mayes said they wanted to try and attract those who were not using the current system.

The forum suggested the council target five percent of households in an "opt in" trial, that would see soft plastics put into a supplied bag and placed in a separate crate on the kerbside, to be picked up fortnightly by EnviroNZ.

"We want to learn what will motivate people to do more, to bring more soft plastics back."

The Packaging Forum estimates if 1000 households were recycling soft plastic at the kerbside, collection would increase by one tonne per month.

The scheme would be industry funded and if the trial was successful, it would be expanded.

Packaging Forum chief exectuive Rob Langford said soft plastics collections had been introduced at the kerbside in Belgium and Ireland, and would soon be mandatory in the UK after successful trials.

A mandatory plastic packaging product stewardship scheme was underway in New Zealand, which would see the costs move away from the council and ratepayer to the producer and consumer.

He said Nelson had a unique opportunity to lead the way by being the first to trial a kerbside collection.

The council approved the trial and Nelson Mayor Nick Smith said it would be launched in the second half of the year.

"Nelson has got a strong environmental culture to it - people feel guilty about having to put their soft plastics, grocery bags and bread bags in the waste bin, they don't like that."

The current scheme, which relied on people taking soft plastics to collection bins at their local supermarket or The Warehouse, was not very convenient and uptake was low, he said.

"I am hoping that as a consequence of it being a more convenient service...that we will get a higher level of uptake, and less of the soft plastics going off to landfill."

Smith said given the recycling plant was located in Marlborough and with Nelson the largest urban centre in the top of the South Island, the city had a unique opportunity and sufficient volumes to trial the initiative.

Nelson City Council group manager infrastructure Alec Louverdis said the trial would not be part of council's kerbside recycling collection service so it was important householders did not put soft plastics in the yellow top bins as they could not be recycled through council's facilities.

There would also continue to be soft plastic drop off points at a range of supermarkets and other stores in the region.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs