Wellingtonians are getting the hang of public recycling – but there's still room to improve.

The first brightly-coloured recycling station was installed in Cuba Mall last May, followed by eight others rolled out for the public to recycle glass, plastic cans and paper/cardboard items.

An audit of recycling collected in the bins in October show a 48 per cent contamination rate. The most recent showed an improvement to 17 per cent.

Wellington's Mayor Justin Lester said they were pleased to see public education and environmental conscience, combined with a new design and co-ordinated colour coding across the country was proving a success.


It is second-time lucky for the bins as the council had run a recycling trial in the past.

"The bins were constantly contaminated with rubbish, so it came to an unhappy end," Lester said.

This time, a behavioural scientist had even been hired to make sure the colours were right and that it'd be obvious for people what went where.

The bins also used smart technology to minimise overflow and monitor usage.

Emily Taylor-Hall, the waste operations manager, said there was still room for people to get better.

She said they see soft plastics, dirty napkins and compostable packaging going into the bins, which can't be recycled.

"If they don't put things in the right bin then it can potentially contaminate a whole bin load of material that could otherwise be recycled."

She said they know it can sometimes be confusing but people should make sure they were being vigilant they were putting things in the right bins.


"If you're not sure and you can't check [the Wellington City Council online recycling directory] then we'd say put it in the rubbish and then go away and check online."

There is still room for improvement, said Waste operations manager Emily Taylor-Hall. Photo / Emme McKay
There is still room for improvement, said Waste operations manager Emily Taylor-Hall. Photo / Emme McKay

The recycling stations were also diverting a significant amount of material away from the landfill.

It was estimated across all nine bins 35,000kg of material had been diverted, including 1,000kg of plastic.

The council allocated $300,000 for the trial from its annual waste minimisation levy funds. They wanted to trial all bins for 12 months.

It would then decide about the practicality and cost of implementing public recycling stations in Wellington permanently.