Squashed and stacked more than 2m high, hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles from Huntly's Metro Waste recycling station are at last on the move to Malaysia.

But in other parts of the country, stockpiled recyclables are causing a problem.

Ever since China stopped accepting recyclables from countries such as New Zealand, waste stations have had to hold on to their rubbish until an alternative market is found.

At its peak, there were 400 tonnes of plastic stored here, Waikato District Council Acting Waters Manager, Karl Pavlovich said.


"Changes in the recycling market resulted in us stockpiling some plastics, but a lot of that is over now," Pavlovich said. "We now have found new markets to move a lot of that waste and recycling."

Meanwhile at Smart Enviro's facility near Thames the stockpile is five times - 2000 tonnes of plastic and 1000 tonnes of paper and cardboard stacked in bales indoors and outdoors, waiting to be sent offshore. Plus there are another 700 tonnes of rubbish yet to be sorted.

"It's quite scary because for us, it is a national issue," managing director, Grahame Christian said.

"This site is just indicative of what is happening throughout the country.

"There are issues with fire hazards and products falling over, it's not just about stockpiling but it's also the other operational and commercial aspects that go with it."

At Xtreme Zero Waste in Raglan, the stockpile wasn't quite as large - only a dozen bales - but a market was still beiung sought to take it.

Manager Rick Thorpe said New Zealand needed to look closer to home for longer-term solutions.

"China shutting its doors on receiving plastics and mixed paper is a positive thing for New Zealand," Thorpe said.


"It's an opportunity for us because we have the chance to really look at the life-cycle of these plastics.

"Are we really going to continue with this linear economy of plastics, extracting petroleum and turning them into plastics to be used once and discarded?

"Or are we going to be brave about these decisions about the future of packaging here in New Zealand?"

Christian said the stockpiling recyclable products was getting to a "critical situation".

"We need to think nationally. What are we going to do with it? Both central and local government, but also with collectors and suppliers of other products [we need] to try and build a plant in New Zealand that can handle this material".

Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage said there were funding incentives available to businesses which find sustainable ways to remanufacture recyclables and deal with our waste within New Zealand.

"We can't go to that overnight because that business has to be viable.

"One of the problems in New Zealand is that we don't have steady markets for a lot of recycled commodities.

"Another issue is that we don't have comprehensive product stewardship schemes which put the responsibility back on the manufacturer."

Sage said one of her priorities was to pursue manufacturer responsibility.

However, Christian said there would need to be some guarantees for businesses such as his to invest in creating a New Zealand based market.

"There is no point locking these contracts in for ten or twenty million dollars and then find that we don't have security in supply, so it's kind of chicken and egg stuff," Christian said.

Ultimately responsibility for New Zealand's waste lay with consumers.

"No-one likes to talk about waste," Pavlovich said. "But there is a need for behaviour change."

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