It started with a flurry of complaints, but Napier's new recycling programme is already credited with lessening the amount of waste going to landfill.

On the first day of the new programme in November, the contents of three plastic crates were due to be picked up from 24,436 addresses.

Two streets were overlooked, leading to criticism.

Residents also criticised the rule that crates not be filled high over the rim. Just how high is too high is at the discretion of staff picking up the crates, but over the festive season the sight of precariously-stacked cardboard and bottles was not unusual.

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The company collecting Napier recycling, now a weekly service instead of fortnightly, is Auckland-based Smart Environmental. The company operates in more than a dozen New Zealand centres including Waipukurau and Wairoa. For its Napier contract, Smart Environmental's depot is in the Hastings suburb of Whakatu.

Napier City Council owns the crates and a unique code enables lost crates to be returned to their designated address.

Environmental solutions manager Cameron Burton told councillors about 20 went missing each week, costing the council up to $15,000 a year.

"When people move house, they are using them as a very handy receptacle for when they move things and are not taking them back," he said.

"Some have been reversed over by some occupants of properties, so there are multiple reasons why they disappear."

Last month, Napier City Council approved a $15 charge to replace crates damaged or lost by households. And there's a limit of three crates per household.

Burton said it was too early for any official numbers but indications were the bins were resulting in fewer recyclables going to landfill.

If so, it's a trend set to continue as government levies on landfills are about to increase.

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