Paper and cardboard waste is known as fibre in the recycling industry.
The increasing quantity of fibre that passes through the Whanganui Resource Recovery Centre (WRRC) each year is expected to be about 1000 tonnes in 2020, according to waste minimisation chair councillor Rob Vinsen.
The escalating price of dealing with that much fibre is an upheaval for Whanganui District Council and the WRRC, as well as all the other councils in New Zealand.
Sound solutions must be found.
An education campaign is also necessary.
Residents could learn to repurpose fibre which passes through their hands by putting it in their compost and worm bins.
Fibre makes good mulch too.
Businesses must learn about and implement alternative ways of selling food to customers, just like they have done since plastic bags were outlawed.
The Government announced last year that $40 million has been set aside in the Provincial Growth Fund for waste management and minimisation initiatives.
NZ needs another facility to process all the fibre generated by its residents.
Such a plant needs at least 500,000 tonnes a year and is said to cost $200 million to build.
The current estimate of the total annual volume of our waste fibre is about 400,000 tonnes.
This is a national problem so legislation is needed to ensure that fibre does not keep being a costly headache for councils and recycling businesses, like number 1, 2 and 5 plastic used to be when China stopped taking those plastics.
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Single-use plastic bags were legislated against last year, and although plastic barrier bags are still used at greengrocers and in supermarket produce departments, some are now offering more sustainable alternatives.
However, it is more sustainable to take your own reusable containers, instead of adding yet another plastic or paper bag to your stockpile at home.
Back to the problem of the burgeoning pile of fibre at every waste management depot; could Whanganui lead the way in finding solutions?
A Whanganui think tank has been proposed.
Members will put their heads together to make a plan to deal with the mountains of fibre received by the WRRC.
"If anyone has a brilliant notion, she/he could email that to email@example.com and we'll put it in the mix," said Robin Williamson, honorary adviser to Sustainable Whanganui Trust.
"Let's try and get some innovative ideas to minimise the level of fibre in the waste stream,' adds WRRC manager Dale Cobb.
"Obviously it's a global issue.
"I can't see things getting any better, especially at a time when we're also coping with coronavirus and its impact on Joe Bloggs' lifestyle."
Sustainable Whanganui Trust treasurer Graham Pearson said the WRRC fibre goes to Auckland to be reused.
"It's considered high quality.
"But the contract payment is based on what fibre is worth on the overseas market, less costs that are incurred when transporting it to a port, less the baling cost.
"Now that fibre is worth very little overseas, those costs outweigh the income," Pearson said.
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Two plants in NZ recycle fibre by adding raw product. Each time fibre is recycled, it goes down a grade. Waste paper and cardboard types have different values in these processes.
"Another plant is needed to handle the capacity of material, now exports are unprofitable," Pearson said.
"But if prices paid to WRRC remain at export parity then even another plant will not solve the issue.
"Rob pointed out to council that even just trucking to Bonnie Glen would cost a lot too. Would it just go loose and take up lots of room in the truck, or bale at cost and have a product that would be so compact it would not be easy to rot down?"
What can we, as a community, do to alleviate the problem that's going to get worse as time goes by?
For a start, bring your egg cartons to the Whanganui Environment Base (WhEB) instead of chucking them in the cardboard bins at the WRRC.
People who keep chooks need containers for the eggs produced.
Corrugated cardboard doesn't always need to be recycled.
Always rethink the options.
•Margi Keys is a volunteer at the WhEB.