A recycling crisis means Horowhenua needs to try much harder to reduce its use of soft plastics, including plastic bags.

Plastic bags and other soft plastics have become so problematic to recycle that Horowhenua District Council will stop collecting them in kerbside recycling bins from the beginning of October.

All soft plastic, including bags, food packets, bread bags and food wrap will no longer be collected for recycling in the district, with the council appearing hamstrung on what to do with them.

HDC environmental engineer Ryan Hughes said stockpiles of plastics were building up, changes in the global recycling market mean few companies accept them and they can also jam machinery used to sort recycling.


"At this stage we can do nothing with recycled soft plastics," he said.
"Minimising waste is everyone in the community's responsibility.
"The responsible approach is to address the issue of why are we still producing material that has no value at the end of its life."

After Monday, October 1, recycling crates containing soft plastics will no longer be emptied, however, until October 7, residents whose recycling crates are not emptied because they contain soft plastics can remove those plastics and have their recycling collected the next day.

The council is advising people to dispose of the plastic in wheelie bins or council rubbish bags, which means it will end up in landfills, where it can take hundreds of years to break down.

Soft plastics, including plastic bags, will no longer be collected for recycling in Horowhenua.
Soft plastics, including plastic bags, will no longer be collected for recycling in Horowhenua.

Mr Hughes said recycling soft plastics had been a problem a long time.
"In general, we've held off in the hope that the market would create a solution," he said.
"Unfortunately, the state of the market is worse now than when we first started the service — it's time the public were made fully aware that these products can't be recycled so that they can make an informed choice when purchasing products."

He said there were simply no facilities that want to take the soft plastics.

"We literally can't find anywhere to send them, and neither can the vast majority of councils," he said.

China continued to take material from New Zealand, Mr Hughes said, but had dropped the level of acceptable contamination of plastics, which was having an impact.

This means plastic that is dirty or still has food debris stuck to it will not be accepted.


Mr Hughes said recycling should not be used as a first line of defence, and people need to remember it is actually a backup option for waste that can't be minimised.

"Council is trying to address the real issue, which is waste production.
"One way of doing this is holding public waste minimisation workshops," he said.

More than 70 people attended a talk called The Rubbish Trip — Zero Waste, held in July while an upcoming Kate Meads Zero Waste Living workshop is sold out and next month a Kate Meads Zero Waste Parenting Workshop will be held and again is selling out fast, he said.

"We'll be running more and hope to announce them soon."

A nationwide push to address the massive use of soft plastics in New Zealand was boosted by the Government's announcement last month that single-use plastic bags will be banned and are to be phased out over the next year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at the time it was important the country takes the time now to get the move right, so New Zealanders could adjust their shopping habits.

"Every year in New Zealand we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags — a mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life, and all of this when there are viable alternatives for consumers and business. "

Everyone needs to take responsibility for changing their habits as a soft-plastics recycling crisis looms.
Everyone needs to take responsibility for changing their habits as a soft-plastics recycling crisis looms.

New Zealand is one of the highest producers of urban waste in the developed world, per capita.

79 per cent of plastic waste produced worldwide now sits in landfills, dumps or in the environment, including oceans.

Nearly half of the plastic waste generated worldwide is plastic packaging.

An estimated five trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year.

One of the top five items found in coastal litter is single-use plastic bags.

For further information about recycling in Horowhenua visit www.horowhenua.govt.nz/