Councils across the region are fed up with ongoing recycling contaminators and are now taking action with more bin inspectors hired, recycling bins removed from repeat offenders and many more given a final warning.
Yellow recycling bins that should be used for paper and cardboard, cans and tins are being used to dump everything from nappies and rotten food to dog poo, garden waste - and even oil and paint.
Waipā District Council, which has just hired two bin inspectors, dubbed last Monday its "worst day" for contamination after finding bags of clothing, rubbish, rotting food and other contamination in recycling bins.
The inspectors found 37 per cent of bins or 100 of 270 bins inspected were non-compliant and contained blatant non-recyclable material.
The council's roading operations team leader Jennifer Braithwaite said: "Contamination like this is absolutely unacceptable and is a let-down for the entire district. So far, Waipa has suspended its recycling service to 22 properties.
"If collected, it would have resulted in a significant amount of recycling going to landfill which comes at a massive cost to ratepayers."
Matamata-Piako District Council also has announced that their kerbside contractor Smart Environmental has provided a bin inspector to tackle the ongoing issue.
Hamilton City Council rubbish and recycling manager Trent Fowles says the city is experiencing an increase in contamination in recycling bins. "We have had a bin inspector in place since the start of the recycling service. In addition, we have a compliance officer that also is conducting spot audits of bins."
All of Hamilton's recycling collection trucks are fitted with a camera in the hopper of the truck to enable the driver to view the contents of the bin when emptied, any contamination identified is recorded and camera footage can be reviewed.
Fowles says: "Rather than random audits of the recycling bins, we are using information provided by the drivers to target properties where contamination is being identified."
So far, Hamilton City Council has removed recycling bins from six properties, a further 22 properties have been issued three-strike letters and are in the process of having their bins temporarily removed.
Another 79 properties have been issued two-strike letters and are on their final warning for contamination.
Contaminated recycling costs Waipa ratepayers over $40,000 per month to deal with.
Braithwaite says: "For months we have been asking residents to be mindful of what they are putting in their recycling bins and have been suspending services to properties who have serious contamination in their recycling on more than three occasions."
She says the bin inspectors have already prevented more than 199 contaminated recycling bins from being collected.
"The auditors are mainly focused on trying to find serious contamination. Where this type is found, we will be closely monitoring the properties and suspend their services if necessary. In less serious cases where non-recyclable items which could be mistaken for recyclable items are found, auditors will take more of an educative approach," Braithwaite says.
Once a service is suspended, the property owner is required to make a pledge to council not to put contamination in their recycling. If their service is returned, it will be checked prior to every future collection.
Waikato District Council communications and engagement advisor John Brown said they don't experience the contamination problems on the same level that these other districts have because its recycling is put on the kerb in crates, not wheelie bins.
"The recycling is visible, so people are more likely to follow the guidelines – which is clean plastics and tin in one crate and clean glass in the other. It is also easier for contractors to see those crates that aren't compliant – in these cases a sticker is left on the crate to advise why the recycling has not been collected."
Recently, Waikato district residents were asked to remove lids from plastics and glass products. "This was a bit of a big change for our community coming down from the companies that process collected recyclables. But compliance is improving as people are getting used to the change."
Don't put these in recycling bins
• Nappies and sanitary items
• Medical & vet wastes (fluid bags, bandages)
• Food (use the food scrap bin)
• Glass (use the glass crate)
• Any kind of fabric (clothes, textiles, backpacks, bedding)
• Animal faeces
• Bagged or loose rubbish
• Green garden waste (grass clippings, logs)
• Soft, hard and large plastics
• Unclean items
• Electronics (anything with a plug or battery)
• Scrap metal, including cutlery and crockery
• Timber/rubble/concrete/building waste
• Hazardous waste (pesticides, oil, paint)
Hamilton household hazardous waste drop off
If you live in Hamilton and have a stack of old paint buckets or cleaning products you need to get rid of, then, the Household Hazardous Waste Collection on Saturday, May 22 might be the right event for you.
Hamilton City Council is teaming up with Waikato Regional Council and ChemWaste to provide a free and environmentally-friendly opportunity for Hamiltonians to safely dispose of hazardous materials.
At the event you can drop off waste like paint, solvents, batteries, oils, chemicals, florescent lights and other hazardous materials taking up space at home.
Resource Recovery Advisor Kirsty Quickfall says: "Although the event is free, we only have enough resources to get rid of household quantities, we won't be able to take trailer loads or large quantities from businesses. If it can fit in your boot, bring it along."
Hamilton residents can sign up to the event online, select the items that you'd like to dispose of, and you will be provided with a time-slot on the day.
Waikato Regional Council Waste Prevention Advisor Valerie Bianchi says: "This event will help stop toxic chemicals from going down drains and minimise leachate generated from landfill that pollutes our waterways and endangers native fish and other animals."
Sign up at: hcc.envirowaste.co.nz/