New Zealand has been ranked the second worst recycling nation in a new mini-study - in part because of its failure to recycle leftover Pringles chips, KitKat and Toblerone wrappers.
Consumer organisations from nine countries, including Consumer NZ, took part in the small trial by assessing how recyclable the packaging and labelling of 11 popular products were.
Consumer NZ found 57 per cent of the packaging from the 11 products were not recyclable in New Zealand – only Brazil (92 per cent) fared worse.
Hong Kong (7 per cent), India (23 per cent) and Malaysia (37 per cent) were among the nations proving better at recycling.
"We have a lot of room for improvement," Consumer NZ said.
"Especially when our Aussie cousins beat us by a mile, with just 14 per cent of packaging not being recyclable."
Amid a growing push for societies to leave a more sustainable footprint on the planet, New Zealand's poor recycling didn't fit with its well-known marketing campaigns, Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said.
"It certainly doesn't line up with the clean green image we pride ourselves on," he said.
"Part of the issue is that our recycling capabilities vary greatly throughout the country."
Five product wrappers not easily recyclable in Aotearoa include KitKat chocolate bar wrappers, M&M peanut chocolates, Pringles chips, San Pellegrino sparkling water and Toblerone chocolate.
The packaging for Pringles was particularly bad, consisting of a tube made of plastic, cardboard, foil and aluminium that could not be easily separated, Consumer NZ said.
Of the five products not easily recyclable in New Zealand, three were soft plastics.
"It is possible to recycle soft plastics here, but collection points aren't widespread throughout the country yet," the consumer group said.
"They're at selected stores in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Wellington, and Christchurch."
The three most recyclable product packaging around the world were the Coca-Cola mini six-pack, Dove body wash and San Pellegrino sparkling water.
However, although the San Pellegrino packaging was easily recycled in most countries, it wasn't easily recycled in New Zealand.
The trial found no product was 100 per cent recyclable and labelling was often unclear and confusing for consumers.
The Packaging Forum – an industry group that runs the soft plastic recycling scheme – has estimated Kiwis used 4976 tonnes of soft plastic packaging in a 12-month period up to August 2020.
It also estimated Aotearoa will only have capacity to recycle 700 tonnes of soft plastic over the next year.
"Our Government is working with councils and industry to standardise kerbside recycling and consumer packaging labelling," Consumer NZ said.
KitKat spokesman Fraser Shrimpton earlier said it was possible for Kiwis to recycle soft plastics, such as lolly and chocolate wrappers and chip packets, by collecting them and dropping the clean, empty and dry packaging at Love NZ Soft Plastics Recycling bins at supermarkets and other stores.
Once they are clean, empty and dry, Kiwis could then drop them into the Love NZ Soft Plastics Recycling bins at selected supermarket and other stores.
Lyn Mayes, scheme manager of the Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme, said her team would continue rolling out more locations for Kiwis to recycle soft plastics.
What can you do?
• Choose products with packaging that's clear, sleeveless (or remove sleeves before dropping into your recycling bin), and made from plastics 1, 2 or 5.
• Avoid mixed material packaging, such as the Pringles tube.
• Call on manufacturers to use more recyclable or alternative packaging, and to have clear labelling explaining how to recycle their packaging.
• Take a few moments in the supermarket to choose a product that's more recyclable.
• Choose products that use recycled materials in their packaging.
• Check with your council about what can and can't be recycled in your area, and recycle as much as you can (and make sure it's clean).