Far North District Council transfer stations are about to cease accepting some grades of plastic for recycling, thanks to a shrinking global market.
As of January 14 only plastics numbered 1 and 2 will be accepted for recycling. (The number identifying the type of plastic is typically found on the bottom of the container).
The move will bring the Far North into line with Whangārei, which has never taken types 3-7, and Kaipara, which stopped about four years ago.
Until recently, the majority of the world's waste plastic went to China for recycling.
However, that country had drastically limited imports, and the market for plastics numbered 3 to 7 had collapsed, the council's acting general manager — infrastructure and asset management Glenn Rainham said, adding that, like other New Zealand local authorities, the council had few disposal options for plastic waste.
"We could pay agents to take all types of plastic and hope they can find a recycler overseas. However, there is strong evidence that much of this plastic is not recycled and instead ends up polluting the countries it is shipped to," he said.
"We could also stockpile plastic in the hope a solution is found. However, industry experts agree there is little likelihood of the market for plastics numbered 3 to 7 improving any time soon."
The council had no suitable site for stockpiling bales of mixed plastic, which deteriorated quickly when left in the open, meaning much of it would have to be dumped.
Mr Rainham said the best option for the council was to continue accepting plastics numbered 1 and 2 for recycling, and to divert all others to landfill.
"No one is happy about sending plastic to landfill. However, until viable alternatives are available, we believe this option will have the least impact on the environment," he said.
The council was providing a transition period, with plastics numbered 3 to 7 continuing to be accepted at no cost at refuse and recycling stations until January 14. After that, they should be included in normal household rubbish going to landfill.
The decision did not affect kerbside recycling collections, which were undertaken in the Far North by two private companies. Northland Waste, which operated in the northern part of the district, had already stopped collecting plastics numbered 3 to 7, while Waste Management, in the south, was considering its position.
In July the Far North District Council supported a Local Government New Zealand call on central government to work with local authorities to reduce waste, options including adopting a national approach to collecting and processing recycling, and establishing a container deposit scheme to encourage the reuse of plastics and bottles.