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How we recycle in the Queenstown Lakes District

Here we explain our local recycling rules, what goes in each bin and what to avoid to ensure our recycling can be made into new stuff. 

Please take a look at the 'Recycle With Care' brochure.

Our top tips Yellow bin - mixed recycling Blue bin - glass recycling Red bin - rubbish Where does recycling go? General recycling FAQs

Top tips for recycling

  • Only put the right materials in the right bins  (see instructions below)

  • If in doubt, leave it out. Recycling is all about quality, so only put it in the recycling bin if you're sure it can be recycled

  • No lids

  • Make sure it's empty and clean

  • No spray bottle triggers and pumps

  • Only recycle household product packaging from the kitchen, bathroom and laundry


Yellow bin - mixed recycling

    • Paper

    • Cardboard

    • Cans - steel and aluminum

    • Plastic bottles and containers marked 1, 2 and 5 (look for the little triangle with a 1, 2 or 5)

    Remember: 

    • No meat trays

    • No fruit and veggie punnets

    • No coloured bottles marked 1 (for example tinted soft drink bottles)

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    • Meat trays

    • Biscuit trays

    • Fruit and veggie punnets

    • Soft plastics (plastic bags, bread bags etc)

    • Lids

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  • Some plastics are not useful when it comes to making new products. 

    It used to be that many countries, including New Zealand, would send most of their plastics overseas for recycling. In reality, some of those plastics were not useful to make new products from, so they could end up getting dumped or burnt, creating pollution and a health hazard for residents.

    Plastic is a tricky item to recycle (especially compared to glass and cans). Each type of plastic needs to be recycled separately.

    In Queenstown Lakes, we send our plastics marked and to Comspec in Christchurch where items are recycled into industrial plastics like drainage pipe. We send plastics marked to Flight Plastics in Wellington, where it is made into food grade packaging.

    Putting non-recyclable plastics in recycling bins causes contamination. Too much contamination can result in a whole truckload of material needing to be sent to landfill.

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  • Product packaging does not necessarily reflect the reality of recycling options available in New Zealand and is not developed in association with councils.

    What can be recycled is different across New Zealand because it depends on what recycling machinery is in place. Work is being done to try and standardise kerbside recycling and product labelling across New Zealand, which would make it much easier for everyone.

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  • The resin code is the number found inside a triangle, usually on the base of a plastic bottle or container. 

    It can be on the label, bottle neck or side. It can be quite small so look closely.

    Resin codes were created by the plastics industry to identify different plastics. 

    Our district recycles plastic bottles and containers marked ♳, ♴ and except meat trays, biscuit trays, fruit and vegetable punnets, and coloured bottles marked .

    Plastics without a number can’t be recycled, so if you can’t find one, put the item in the rubbish bin.

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  • Most councils have stopped collecting plastics 3, 4, 6, and 7 as there is no longer a market demand for them, since they are not useful for making new products.

    Some councils have only ever accepted plastics 1 & 2.

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  • These items can be made of different plastic types, like PET or PVC.

    Currently our plastics are sorted manually meaning it is difficult to distinguish between them, because they look identical.

    We can recycle clear PET plastic with a reprocessor here in Aotearoa New Zealand, but unfortunately the PVC type plastic can contaminate a whole bale of PET plastic.

    Because of this risk, our reprocessor will not accept PET trays or punnets unless they are sorted using an optical sorter. An optical sorter is a very expensive piece of equipment, which we don’t have in our district.

    This means meat trays, biscuit trays and punnets marked can’t be recycled in our district, and have to go in the rubbish.

    The good news is central government has announced that from late 2022, PVC meat trays, polystyrene takeaway packaging, and degradable plastic products will be banned. All other PVC and polystyrene food and drink packaging will be banned by 2025.

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  • Coloured plastic marked (such as an L&P bottle ) is not currently recyclable as there is no market (here or overseas) for this product.

    Different coloured plastics turns a muddy colour when recycled. It loses value as it can only be recycled to make grey or black coloured plastic products.

    Companies prefer using clear plastic for food and beverage products, which is why there’s no market for recycled coloured plastic.

    Clear plastic bottles marked (like most water or soft drink bottles) has value because it can be recycled easily into new food and beverage packaging.

    Ideally, try and look for the product you want in glass, aluminium cans or steel tins.

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Blue bin - glass recycling

  • Only glass bottles and jars go in the blue bin. 

    Put other types of glass, like windows, drinking glasses, lightbulbs, perfume and moisturiser bottles, mirror, heatproof (e.g. Pyrex) in the rubbish bin. 

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  • These types of glass have a different chemical composition to glass bottles and jars and cause major problems during the recycling process. 

    Glass recycling is very sensitive to contamination.

    The wrong type of glass, and crockery, is the worst contamination for glass recycling.

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  • Yes. Make sure the bottle is empty and clean (a good shake with water and dishwash liquid helps). You don't need to remove the plastic pourer, but please remove the lid and put it in the rubbish bin.

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  • A little bit of broken glass is okay. Glass is colour sorted by an optical sorter in Auckland, so the bigger the pieces of broken glass the better.

    Remember, heatproof glass, crockery, drinking glasses, windows, perfume bottles, and mirrors all go in your red rubbish bin.

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  • No. Technically it’s a contaminant, but for health and safety reasons we don’t want people trying to remove them. The recycling system can deal with this small amount of metal going in.

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Red bin - rubbish

  • The red bin is for rubbish.

    Put takeaway cups, plastic lined cartons, soft plastics, plastic bags, pizza boxes, window glass, broken crockery, nappies and non-recyclable plastics in the rubbish bin. Remember, if you are not sure if something can be recycled, put it in the red bin.

    Please don’t put hazardous items like batteries, hot ashes, flammable aerosols or chemicals in the rubbish bin. Contact us to find out how to safely dispose of these.

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Where does recycling go?

  • Recycling from the yellow bins goes to our Materials Recovery Facility in Frankton.

    Here it is both manually and mechanically sorted into different recycling streams.

    In Queenstown Lakes, we send plastics marked and to Comspec in Christchurch where items are recycled into industrial plastics like drainage pipe.

    We send plastics marked to Flight Plastics in Wellington, where it is made into food grade packaging.

    Cardboard is sent to Indonesia (80%) and South East Asia (20%) and made into new cardboard packaging.

    Paper is sent to India and made into paper related products.

    Steel and aluminium products are sent to China and Japan and made back into items, including cans. Aluminium can be infinitely recycled.

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  • Once glass is picked up from the kerb it’s taken to our glass bunkers in Wānaka and Frankton.

    From there it goes to the main glass hub in the South Island, called 5R Solutions in Christchurch. Here the glass is manually inspected before its big trip north to Auckland.

    In Auckland, the glass heads to Visy Glass – a plant where the glass is sorted by colour, metal bottle sleeves are removed, and the glass is crushed and ready for melting into new products.

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  • Yes, it is still better to recycle glass than to throw it out. Making glass bottles and jars from recycled glass requires a lot less energy than making them from new materials.

    There is only one glass bottle and jar manufacturer in the country which is Visy in Auckland.

    New Zealand has a small population and getting a sufficient volume of material is a limiting factor for there not being more facilities.

    We try to keep the carbon cost as low as possible by loading the glass into containers and onto ships in Christchurch for the journey to Auckland.

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General FAQs

  • No. This is called wish-cycling – hoping that something will be recycled when it really can’t be. It messes up the rest of the recycling, so please just stick to what you know can be recycled. The district’s recycling relies on quality.

    If in doubt, leave it out!

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  • Recycling is all about quality – which means collecting the right materials in good condition (empty, clean and dry). Placing incorrect or dirty materials in your yellow bin, causes recycling contamination.

    Contamination really impacts the hardworking people that hand-sort materials. It also makes it harder and more expensive to meet quality standards required to recycle materials into new items.

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  • Lids are often made of different materials or are different colours to the bottles or containers they belong to so they can’t be recycled together.

    Loose lids are too small and can’t be sorted at our Materials Recovery Facility.

    Larger flat lids, like ice cream and yoghurt lids, can’t be sorted as they appear 2D to our mechanical sorter, and contaminate the cardboard and paper recycling.

    Pumps and triggers on spray bottles cannot be accepted because they are made of different materials.

    Wine bottle lids are being collected by the local Lions Clubs who use the money raised from recycling these to support the Kidney Kids foundation.

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  • No. Foil packaging cannot be recycled. Neither can drink cartons (e.g., soy milk and juice cartons).

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  • No, you don’t need to do crush anything.

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  • No. Pizza boxes can be composted or go in the red rubbish bin. They are too messy from grease and food, and don’t meet the quality specifications for recycling.

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  • Items for recycling must be larger than the palm of your hand and smaller than three litres.

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  • Keep these items out of all your bins, including your red bin.

    Whiteware, tyres, gas bottles and children’s car seats can be brought to Wānaka and Queenstown transfer stations for recycling (charges apply).

    Scrap metal can be recycled free of charge at the transfer stations.

    E-waste (computers, laptops, printers etc.) can be brought to the transfer stations or Wastebusters in Wānaka for recycling (charges apply).

    Hazardous waste is accepted at both our transfer stations by prior arrangement only.

    The Wakatipu Recycling Centre accepts lightbulbs, batteries, and engine oil.

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  • We don’t have washing facilities at our Materials Recovery Facility in Frankton. We can only sort materials, which our recycling crew do by hand. 

    Dirty materials make the job really unpleasant for our recycling crews. Dirty materials also fail the quality standards for recycling.

    Please empty bottles and containers of food and liquid before recycling. Give it a quick swish around with dishwashing liquid and hot water.

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  • The bin truck has a ‘hopper camera’ which shows our driver what comes out of each bin, so the driver can provide feedback if anybody has made a recycling mishap.

    These reports are logged in a central system so we can identify and assist the households that need help with their recycling.

    Council contractor Waste Management carries out regular bin audits. Staff check in the bins, identify any non-recyclable items, and provide feedback to the household.

    We also do district-wide audits of kerbside rubbish and recycling bins so we can better target our education campaigns.

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  • We regularly advocate to central government to restrict hard-to-recycle packaging.

    The best place to influence is at the front end with sustainable packaging, rather than struggling to deal with hard-to-recycle products at the end of a product’s life cycle.

    Consumers can influence manufacturers and retailers. If your favourite product is not made of plastic types 1, 2 or 5, or not clearly labelled, you can get in touch with the manufacturer and ask them to consider making changes to their packaging.

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