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How we recycle in the Queenstown Lakes District

Kā whakariteka hangarua ki 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.


Top tips for recycling

  • 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

  • Keep items loose in the recycling bins - no bagging of recyclables please.

  • Put lids, pumps & spray bottle triggers in the red rubbish bin.

  • Items bigger than 4 litres & smaller than your palm go in the red rubbish bin.


Yellow bin - mixed recycling

    • Paper and cardboard (including pizza boxes free from grease and food)

    • Aluminium and steel cans.

    • Plastic bottles, trays, and containers marked with recycling symbols ♳, ♴ and ♷

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    • Soft plastics (plastic bags, bread bags etc)

    • Plastic packaging marked ♵ ♶ ♸ and ♹

    • Drink cartons or tetra paks

    • Lids, pumps and triggers

    • Coffee cups

    • Plastic or foil lined paper & cardboard.

    • Household items that are not packaging, for example a plastic laundry basket

    • Items bigger than 4 litres & smaller than your palm go in the rubbish.

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  • Some plastics are not useful when it comes to making new products making them invaluable and unwanted commodities.

    It used to be that many countries, including New Zealand, would send most of their low value 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 the local communities.

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

    Putting non-recyclable plastics in recycling bins causes contamination which can result in material needing to be sent to landfill.

    For these reasons, the Ministry for the Environment requires all councils to only accept plastic bottles, trays and containers marked with recycling symbols ♳, ♴ and ♷

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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 central government or local councils.

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  • The plastic 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. 

    Across New Zealand only plastic bottles, trays, and containers marked ♳, ♴ and ♷ can be recycled. Plastics marked ♵ ♶ ♸ and ♹ or plastics without a resin code have to go in the red rubbish bin.

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  • No. From 1 February, councils around the country will have to comply with the standardised list of recycling and only accept plastic bottles, trays and containers marked ♳, ♴ and ♷. So anywhere you go in New Zealand, you’ll know what to recycle!

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  • Until the government’s ban of PVC meat trays, polystyrene takeaway packaging, and degradable plastic products in 2022 these items were made from different plastic types, like PET or PVC (plastic ♵). 

    Recycling in our district is sorted manually. Because both PET and PVC look identical, it was difficult to distinguish between them, and our reprocessor would not accept the PET trays or punnets because of the risk of contamination.

    The risk of contamination by PVC has reduced significantly since the government’s ban of PVC meat trays, polystyrene takeaway packaging, and degradable plastic products in 2022 (all other PVC and polystyrene food and drink packaging will be banned by 2025).

    That means, trays can now be recycled in the yellow bin as our PET reprocessor will now accept them from districts with manual sorting processes.

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  • Coloured bottle ♳ are difficult to recycle. They turn a muddy colour when melted together so there’s nowhere to send recycled coloured ♳ plastic as companies prefer using clear ♳ plastic for food and beverage products.

    Waste Management, our recycling contractor, doesn’t currently have a market for coloured plastic marked ♳ (such as an L&P bottle). This means that it will be treated as a contaminant for now.

    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.

    If you can, try to find your favourite products in recyclable plastics, glass bottles and cans instead of in coloured bottles marked ♳.

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  • The Ministry for the Environment set the list of standardised materials for all councils to follow, and included coloured plastic marked ♳ as they thought it would be too confusing for people if it was left out.

    QLDC submitted against the inclusion of coloured plastic marked ♳ because of its hard to recycle nature and encourage you to choose alternative packaging like glass bottles, cans recyclable plastics if you can. 

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Blue bin - glass recycling

  • Only glass bottles and jars used for food and drink go in the blue bin. 

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

    This includes items like takeaway cups, drink cartons, lids, soft plastics, food contaminated, plastic or foil lined paper and cardboard, plastics ♵♶♸ or ♹, nappies, window glass, and broken crockery. 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. Visit our Other Waste webpage or contact us at services@qldc.govt.nz 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 Pact Recycling Solutions in Wellington, where it is made into food grade packaging or send them overseas to responsible markets.

    Cardboard is sent to largely to Malaysia and made into new cardboard packaging, or sent to other responsible markers overseas.

    Paper is sent to Indonesia and 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

  • The Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme is run by The Packaging Forum, independently of councils and is funded by the food and grocery product brand owners that are members of the scheme.

    The scheme was first launched in 2015 but stopped in 2018 due to issues with overwhelming volumes, contamination, and the collapse of the markets when the offshore plants processing the plastic no longer wanted it.

    The scheme has now recommenced collection in Queenstown Lakes. The Soft Plastic Recycling bins will be available in the following locations:

    • Queenstown: Countdown, New World and The Warehouse

    • Wānaka: New World and The Warehouse

    The soft plastic, collected will be transported to Future Post’s new Blenheim facility for recycling into fence posts destined for farms and wineries, as well as garden frames for households.

    It is important to know that QLDC, and Councils across NZ, don’t accept soft plastics in kerbside recycling bins because the product cannot be processed through Material Recovery Facilities, and often interferes with mechanical components of these sorting facilities. Councils have also moved away from accepting hard to recycle plastics that cannot be processed onshore in New Zealand. This is in alignment with the work that has been happening at central government level and globally to reduce the harm cause by these materials that have no sustainable and circular end of life solution. As a council, we are advocating strongly for mandatory product stewardships schemes and the phase out of hard to recycle plastics through the recent and current central government proposals because we would like to see a shift up the waste hierarchy with more of a focus on reduction as opposed to downcycling.

    Further information can be found here:

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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 crush anything.

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  • Yes. Pizza boxes free from grease and food can be recycled. If they are not free from grease and food they can be composted or go in the red rubbish bin.

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

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  • Keep these items out of all your bins, including your red rubbish 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 Whakatipu Recycling Centre accepts lightbulbs, batteries, and engine oil.

    QLDC is currently developing an A-Z Waste and Recycling Directory to help you find out what belongs in your kerbside bins and where other unwanted items can be dropped off for reuse, recycling or safe disposal.

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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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  • In October 2022 the Ministry for Environment phased out PVC food trays and containers, Polystyrene takeaway food and drink packaging, expanded polystyrene food and drink packaging, plastic with pro-degradant additives (i.e. oxo and photo degradable plastics), plastic drink stirrers and plastic stemmed cotton buds.

    The second phase out in July 2023 included single-use plastics such as plastic drinking straws, plastic tableware and cutlery, plastic produce bags and non-home compostable plastic produce labels.

    The next phase of plastic product bans is set for mid-2025, with focus on hard-to-recycle packaging.

    Further information can be found on the Phasing out hard-recycle and single-use plastics webpage | Ministry for Environment

    We regularly advocate to central government to restrict hard-to-recycle packaging and strongly supported the bans.

    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 ♳, ♴ and ♷, 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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