Changes to kerbside recycling service

From 1 December 2020, we’ll be changing the types of plastics accepted in yellow kerbside bins to ones we can recycle onshore in New Zealand. Only grocery plastic packaging types 1, 2 and 5 will be accepted for recycling in your yellow kerbside bin, apart from meat trays, biscuit trays, punnets and coloured PET bottles (1). 

Plastics types 1, 2, and 5 make up the majority of plastics put in the district’s yellow mixed recycled bins. These are high value plastics and are easily recycled into other useful products here in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Plastics types 3, 4, 6 and 7 are low value plastics which are harder to recycle into new products. These plastics should be avoided, reused or put into the rubbish bin.

There will also be changes to public litter and mixed recycling bins across the district. 

You'll find all the information on these changes here. 

What's changing?

  • From 1 December, only plastics recycled in New Zealand can go in your yellow bin. Look for a 1, 2 or 5 in the recycling triangle on a bottle or container.   


    PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) 

    Clear plastic bottles only

    Examples: water, juice, soft drink bottles


    HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)

    Plastic bottles and containers (grocery plastic packaging) 

    Examples: Milk bottles, shampoo and cleaning product bottles


    PP (Polypropylene)

    Plastic bottles and containers (grocery plastic packaging) 

    Examples: large yoghurt containers and ice cream tubs

    All other plastics should be avoided, reused or put into the red rubbish bin. This includes all soft plastics, meat trays, biscuit trays, punnets, coloured PET bottles (1) and all plastics types 3, 4, 6 and 7.   

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  • Only plastic types 1,2 and 5 can be recycled in New Zealand. There is nowhere to send other plastics for recycling, so they should be avoided, reused or put in the red rubbish bin. Putting non- recyclable plastics in recycling bins causes contamination. 

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  • These items can be made of either PET (1) or PVC (3). At our Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), plastics are sorted manually & often it is not possible to tell these apart. PVC items can potentially contaminate a whole bale of PET so the plant that receives our PET for recycling has advised that it won’t accept these items until they can be properly distinguished. We have plans to upgrade our MRF in the future to resolve this.

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  • Coloured PET (1) is not currently recyclable in New Zealand as there is no market for this product.

    Clear PET has high value because it can be recycled easily back into clear PET. Coloured PET turns a grey colour when recycled. It loses value as it can only be used to make grey- or black-coloured recycled plastic products.

    Try to avoid buying product in coloured PET and instead look for the product in recyclable packaging such as glass, aluminium cans or steel tins.

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  • Pizza boxes will no longer be accepted in the yellow recycling bin, as they are too contaminated by grease and food to be accepted for recycling. 
    These make a great addition to your compost, providing the vital carbon ingredient. If you don’t have a garden try the ShareWaste app to hook up with a gardener in need of this essential element.  Alternatively you can use these as a fire starter or better yet, dine in or make your own to avoid the waste altogether. 

    Pumps and triggers on spray bottles will not be accepted. Items must be larger than the palm of your hand and smaller than 3 litres. 

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  • We’re making the change to align with New Zealand’s commitment to move away from hard-to-recycle plastics and to help better manage the international trade in plastic waste.

    The Government is also looking at standardising kerbside recycling nationwide, based on recommendations from a new report Standardising kerbside collections in Aotearoa.

    Knowing which plastic packaging you are buying your products in can help you make a choice about where that plastic ends up.

    By opting for high-value plastics which can be processed in New Zealand we can be confident in a clear supply chain with obvious environmental and social outcomes. That’s a win for the environment, for people involved in the recycling industry and, ultimately, for everyone throughout Aotearoa.

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  • We send clear PET (1) bottles to Flight Plastics in Wellington where they’re made into food grade packaging, while HDPE (2) and PP (5) go to Comspec in Christchurch where they’re turned into high quality recycled resins for resale.

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  • Council advocates to Central Government on a regular basis to try and influence positive movement towards sustainable packaging.

    We need to work collectively to reduce the amount of plastic packaged products we buy, and look at how we can reuse and repurpose those we have. Consumers can have a huge influence on manufacturers and retailers.

    If your favourite product is not made of plastic types 1, 2 or 5, or not clearly labelled, people can get in touch with the manufacturer and ask them to consider making changes to more acceptable packaging. The best place to influence is at the front end with sustainable packaging, rather than struggling to deal with a difficult to recycle waste end product.

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  • Over the next month, check the plastic types in your shopping trolley and make the switch to easy-to-recycle products so you’re ready for the change.   

    The good news is that you can swap out the products packaged in problematic plastics for similar ones packaged in other recyclable materials like cans, glass, or cardboard.

    If worst comes to worst and you can’t avoid non-recyclable plastics, please dispose of them in the red rubbish bin.

    Head to Cut your waste for more swap ideas and ways to put down on plastic. 

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  • We will be sending information packs out to every household ahead of the change on 1 December. We also have information on our website and available at our libraries and service centres. 

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  • There will also be changes to public litter and mixed recycling bins across the district: 

    • All existing 2-way bins (currently made up of one mixed recycling and one rubbish bin) will change to rubbish only.

    • Existing 2-way bins at Queenstown Gardens (currently made up of one mixed recycling and one rubbish bin) will change to rubbish and glass recycling.

    • All existing 4-way bins (currently made up of one mixed recycling, one glass and two rubbish bins) will change to one glass, one aluminium cans only and 2 rubbish bins.

    • New 4-way bins installed in Hawea and Kingston to ensure these communities have consistent access to public place recycling with the rest of the district.  These bins have been ordered and will be installed when they arrive in early December. 

    These changes will mean we’re able to provide more certainty that the materials put into the public place recycling bins will be recycled.

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Tips to get the best out of the recycling service

  • There are only seven things that should go into your yellow recycling bin:

    1. Clear PET (1) Clear bottles only

    2. HDPE (2) Plastic bottles & containers

    3. Tins

    4. Cans

    5. PP (5) Plastic bottles & containers

    6. Paper

    7. Cardboard

    All items need to be clean and dry.

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  • Make sure you: 

    • Only recycle things you know can be recycled (if in doubt, leave it out)

    • Empty out food, tip out liquid and give bottles and containers a clean before recycling them

    • Remove all lids, triggers and pumps. Place these items in the rubbish bin or find a creative use for them

    • Take it out of bags and boxes.  Recycling must be loose

    • Put  items smaller than 50 mm in diameter (e.g. lids, bread tags, medicine bottles) in the rubbish

    • Put items larger than 3 litres in the rubbish bin or find a creative way to reuse them. No items larger than 3 litres or smaller than the palm of your hand

    • Don't squash your plastics, tins or cans

    • Put rubbish in the wheelie bin with the red lid 

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