The group behind a temporarily suspended soft plastics recycling scheme is concerned eco-friendly New Zealanders stockpiling rubbish will overload the system when it returns.

Scores of dedicated greenies are stashing their soft plastics away in preparation for the return of the recycling bins to supermarkets. The scheme, run by the Packaging Forum, is expected to return in April.

The scheme was suspended in December, as high volumes started to create stockpiles.

One Auckland man's mission to be sustainable crossed international borders; he took a whole suitcase of soft plastic trash with him on a recent trip to Hong Kong, to have it recycled there.


PC Tong was travelling to Hong Kong to visit family in December.

"I thought, 'you know what, I could take it back to Hong Kong where they have a recycling scheme'," he said.

"I had two bags booked on my flight for luggage, and basically I filled one of them with soft plastic rubbish."

Soft plastic recycling bins have been removed from supermarkets and shops throughout the country.
Soft plastic recycling bins have been removed from supermarkets and shops throughout the country.

Packaging Forum chairman Malcolm Everts described Tong's move as "interesting", though pointed out the carbon footprint created by flying an individual's rubbish overseas could negate the good.

Everts said the Packaging Forum had been forced to temporarily suspend the scheme because of the stockpiles and the fact the Melbourne-based processing plant which received New Zealand's recycling stopped accepting it.

Everts said people stowing rubbish ahead of April created hygiene concerns. If stored, material with traces of food could contaminate whole bales of rubbish and make it unsuitable for recycling.

He also worried initially high volumes of recycling could overload the system again, though he hoped this would be managed through a phased approach to the scheme's return.

"Until we get started, we won't know what those volumes are," he said.


"We're just being conservative with how many places we start up, until we get visibility of what the volume is again."

When collection resumed, the soft plastics would no longer be sent to Melbourne.

"It was being turned into park benches and the likes in Melbourne," Everts said.

"But what we're now doing in Waiuku, just out of Auckland, and also in Levin, is turning it into fence posts - that's the main one."

The scheme would likely return to Auckland first, before being rolled out in other cities.

Everts hoped other factors, like supermarkets abolishing plastic bags, would help reduce the amount of rubbish to deal with.

Hamilton East woman Alvira Murison-Swartz has several big bags of soft plastic rubbish stored at home in Hamilton.

"I'm trying to do what I can on my side, to reduce the amount of plastic I purchase," she said.

Murison-Swartz, who is studying veterinary nursing, said she had a system to keep things hygienic, starting by cleaning out the bags with a medical-grade dilution of bleach.

"I make sure I kill off anything - and then the plastic gets dried out in the sun on the washing line."