A Whangarei rest home caught out by a recycling rule is worried about how it might affect other recyclers.

When Shalom Aged Care's cardboard recycling was not collected at the end of August, the rest home contacted Whangarei District Council to find out why.

Manager Chris McFarlane said the rest home was told the collection did not take anything that didn't fit in the recycling bins.

Ms McFarlane was told this had always been the case but they had just started enforcing it. She was "floored" by the news the cardboard recycling had to be cut down to size.

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"For a city that's trying to promote recycling, it's a short-sighted thing."

She said some of the recycling which didn't get picked up went into their skip bin, and therefore was not recycled.

Ms McFarlane was concerned it was unsafe for elderly people to be cutting the cartons down.

She said the residents at Shalom wouldn't be doing any cutting - that would be left to staff. However, she was worried about the blocks of units on either side of the rest home.

"They're all older people, what are they going to do when they get cartons."

She said so many things come with cardboard packaging.

Ms McFarlane had told the residents of Shalom Aged Care about having to cut up oversized cardboard.

"This generation were such recyclers, they couldn't believe it."

Northland Waste collects the recycling on behalf of the council and a spokesperson said there had been no recent directive to enforce the size rule.

"It's always been the case. Sometimes there is a bit of inconsistency which can cause this [confusion]."

That inconsistency is that sometimes the rubbish collectors will pick up the oversize recycling out of goodwill.

He said as part of the free weekly domestic collection, the cardboard has to be broken down and flattened, and no bigger than the dimensions of the top of the maroon recycling bin which glass, plastic and metal recycling is placed in.

It can be tied in a bundle or put in a bag. He said it needs to be secured because it has to be thrown up the top of the truck.

WDC waste and drainage field officer Grant Alsop also said the size guidelines had always been used.

"We want to encourage recycling but we want to encourage people to stick to the guidelines to make it easier for the crews out there."

He said the crews will have a chute in the truck which they are putting the cardboard and newspaper into and if it's too big, it slows them down trying to fit it in.