Recycling used to generate a modest income for the Whanganui District Council's Resource Recovery Centre - but not anymore.
The cost of accepting cardboard and a number of plastics skyrocketed after China stopped accepting shipments of the recycled materials. As a result, the council proposes to stop collection of cardboard and plastics with numbers 3, 4, 6 and 7 from December 31 this year.
While ratepayers love a good cost-saving, most are not so keen on this one.
The council's Waste Minimisation Advisory Group is led by councillor Rob Vinsen.
"We are desperately trying to find another sustainable market for fibre because that is something we don't want to stop the collection of," he said. "We usually got an income of around $40,000 per annum, now we are looking at anything like $180,000 actual cost to us."
A statutory review of the waste plan in 2015 offered the public many avenues but failed to deliver a clear answer. With the six-yearly review looming, the council hopes to draft a clearer plan for public consultation.
While householders eagerly wait to hear if Whanganui will add recycling to kerbside collection, Hastings District Council has recently made the switch. So Whanganui councillors and staff recently visited Hastings keen to learn how to do it. In particular, the group visited Hawk Packaging, which recycles cardboard into fruit trays.
"That's the sort of sustainable operation there needs to be more of in New Zealand," Vinsen said. "That's a very good outcome for the collection of our fibre. Consequently, if we can make that work, that's where we want to head."
Packaging is not the only path the Waste Minimisation Advisory Group is pursuing, it is also looking at uses such as composting and mixing with greenwaste and spreading on agricultural land.
But household waste only accounts for a quarter of total landfill waste.
"The council needs to look at other issues such as construction and demolition waste, which is a huge part of the waste stream," waste adviser Stuart Hylton said. "Also organics, greenwaste, food industries and primary industry waste - that currently all goes to landfill."
The Government is reviewing the Waste Minimisation Act while looking at product stewardship, increasing levies at landfills and deciding how they will be distributed to local authorities.
Such government initiatives are positive but there's nothing like necessity to get the ball rolling. China's decision to refuse our refuse leaves storage or landfill as options - or some other solution.
"I think it will be one of the best things that has ever happened to our country," Hylton said. "There will be a lot more investment in local initiatives and national infrastructure towards waste minimisation."
Whanganui District Council is eagerly seeking solutions to the waste problem and looks forward to public submissions once the draft plan is completed. The public will also have the opportunity to present in person to the council.
In the meantime, it seems likely cardboard and plastics 3, 4, 6 and 7 will no longer be recyclable in Whanganui after December 31, 2020.
Made with funding from