The days of buying all sorts of plastic with the thought that you can send it to recycling are gone.

Thames-Coromandel is the latest council that will be dumping all but grades 1 and 2 plastic packaging - such as water bottles and milk bottles - and is warning residents not to try to 'wishcycle' or risk all of it going to landfill.

Hauraki District is expected to do the same.

The move away from collecting plastics is nothing to do with Covid-19 but because these products cannot be recycled on New Zealand shores.


Smart Environmental CEO Todd McLeay said councils around New Zealand were making the tough decision to stop accepting certain plastics.

"There's nowhere for them to send grades 3 to 7. All over New Zealand that's happening in some form or another."

He said some 12 local authority representatives, Government and industry had used the lockdown period for video conferencing how New Zealand can collectively meet its responsibilities to manage plastics in a volatile global recycling market.

"The view is that you're not really doing anyone any favours by having people put something into a recycling bin when they think they're doing the right thing..."

"There's quite an alignment around how this will move ahead. We will end up with more responsibility for producers taking accountability. Making sure that at the end of the line, the things we're using can be reused, and not misleading people into thinking they are able to be reused when they're not."

Thames-Coromandel and Hauraki District Council's kerbside rubbish and recycling collection resumes from May 18.

Despite increases in solid waste costs that TCDC has largely blamed for proposed rates rises averaging 10 per cent, only plastic waste types 1 and 2 will be recycled from now on.

All recycling except glass will be dumped in landfill for the first fortnight while the sorting centre in Kopu is "brought back online", say both councils.


From June 15 TCDC will stop emptying wheelie bins that contain plastics other than types 1 and 2.

TCDC announced it will continue using Smart Environmental Limited after
lengthy contract negotiations, including in response to China's restriction on accepting recycling and waste.

Allegations were made against Smart of inappropriate conduct regarding the use of, and payment for, Council facilities.

"We engaged waste management experts Morrison Low and forensic services experts PwC to investigate the allegations, with Smart's cooperation," he Council stated.

Allegations were rebutted by the evidence or, in one instance, the amounts involved were not material to the contract and therefore not necessary to determine, the Council said.

McLeay said shifting responsibility to consumers and councils for a product's life cycle has been convenient but not good for the environment.


He said the modern recycling logo was founded by the petrochemical industry, producers of products like drink bottles, under a Keep America Beautiful campaign which put the onus on consumers to recycle.

"In fact the consumer doesn't have a chance.

"Only 9 per cent of the plastic being produced in the world is being recycled."

A return to the bottle drive and a combination of disincentives - like landfill levies and taxing upfront of products that cannot be recycled - was a way to curtail the practices that led to the problem.

"What will probably happen is we will end up with a more sophisticated version of what happened in the 50s and 60s. It didn't come in packaging, it was wrapped in paper. There's some great innovation happening in that space.

"Thirty or 40 years ago the planet was in better shape than it is now. So in some ways the practices we have introduced have to be curtailed."


In the Western Bay district, the Council is using a staged approach to move its centres back to full functionality and is also not collecting any plastic under alert Level 2.

Western Bay of Plenty District Council Utilities Manager Kelvin Hill acknowledges the frustration that full recycling services have not been reinstated.

Recycling centres will stay closed until further information is provided by the government and Council, he said.

Katikati and Te Puke centres will operate during level 2, and the council will be arranging additional opening days in the coming weeks to help ease the backlog of both plastic and other recycling products, including greenwaste, that people are anxious to get rid of.