Significant changes in international waste recycling markets mean that the Whakatāne District Council’s kerbside recycling service will no longer be collecting grades 3-7 plastics.

As from 1 June, only grades 1 & 2 plastics should be placed in yellow-top recycling bins and all other grades should be placed in general refuse bins.

Council Solid Waste Manager Nigel Clarke says the change is regretted, but as the recycling markets that previously took our grades 3-7 plastics are no longer open to us, there is no practical alternative available.

“Plastic grade information is generally located on the bottom of packaging items, so residents are asked to check their plastic waste and look for the triangular recycling symbols,” he explains. “Grades 1 and 2, which include items like plastic drink and milk bottles, should still be recycled. The other plastic grades, which include widely-used items like plastic bags, ice cream containers, yogurt pots, and some takeaway containers, should ideally be reused, or alternatively, be placed in the green, general waste wheelie bins.”

Mr Clarke says the change in practice has been forced upon the Council’s solid waste contractor, Waste Management NZ Limited, because major markets such as China and Malaysia are no longer accepting grades 3-7 plastics.

“Local and central Government are looking to create a viable and sustainable use of grades 3-7 plastics, but realistically, that could take some time to achieve. In the meantime, we have no choice but to send these grades to landfill,” he says. “We appreciate that some people may be worried about fitting extra waste their general refuse bins and suggest that grades 3-7 items that cannot be reused for other purposes should be flattened, so that they take up less space.

“Changing our consumer habits can also help,” he adds. “If you’re buying a product in plastic packaging, check the grade of plastic first and if it can’t be recycled, look for an alternative product in the same price range, or consider bulk purchasing in reusable containers.”

As a reminder of the change, households and businesses will soon receive a sticker explaining the new system, to put on their recycling bin lids. Stickers will be delivered in the week beginning 27 May.