New markets will have to be found for Whanganui's recyclable plastics because China is ceasing to import them.
But price fluctuations for recycled materials are nothing new, Whanganui waste minimisation adviser Stuart Hylton said. The Whanganui Resource Recovery Centre will ride out the changes.
"We hold on to products when markets are slow or close down. We will continue to do that. We have never sent any recyclable product to landfill."
China has been the world's biggest importer of recyclable product, but for the last two years it has stopped renewing import licences for 24 categories of recyclable and solid waste. The impact of this has increased over the last six months.
"I think this is a wake-up call for our industry. We shouldn't be relying on one outlet, China, even though it has been traditionally strong."
Mr Hylton is expecting other Asian markets to pick up as China eases out. And as volumes of recyclables grow, New Zealand industries will have enough product to use in manufacturing.
Plastics are the main problem. Numbers 1 and 2 - used in soft drink and milk bottles - still have a ready market.
"We make a bit of a loss on numbers 3 to 7, but other recyclable products cover the cost," Mr Hylton said.
New Zealand industries are coming into the market. A new business in Lower Hutt is recycling number 1 plastic, and another in Auckland is turning plastic bags into outdoor furniture.
Mr Hylton has been following the price of recyclables for nearly 20 years.
He said glass still has a ready market in Auckland, at O-I New Zealand. It can't get enough product. Whanganui gets a good price for the glass it sends there, but transport costs cut into that.
There are also strong New Zealand markets for recyclable paper and cardboard.
The Whanganui Resource Recovery Centre is a joint not-for-profit initiative of the
Whanganui District Council and Whanganui Iwi.
Manager Ramari Te Uamairangi said the only product it doesn't take is polystyrene, and it is looking at undertaking a social enterprise.
The centre diverts 3000 tonnes of material away from landfill every year, about 10 per cent of Whanganui's total waste stream.
Its product is well sorted and is of a very high standard, Mr Hylton said.