Many bales of plastic are waiting at the Whanganui Resource Recovery Centre for possible buyers.

The plastics used to be sold to China, but that country is no longer taking them.

Fortunately the Whanganui centre is large and has lots of room to store product, manager Ramari Te Uamairangi said.

"We don't have to [landfill it] and we are never going to landfill it. It's a matter of just sitting it out and waiting for the market to return."

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Clear plastic from drink bottles (No 1) has a market with a Lower Hutt manufacturer. Milk bottle plastic (No 2) also has a market in New Zealand.

Other plastics have no market now, and are baled and waiting for one. They include the plastics used in coloured drink bottles, in margarine containers, in shampoo bottles and icecream containers.

Whanganui councillors Josh Chandulal-Mackay (left), Rob Vinsen and centre manager Ramari Te Uamairangi stand with plastic baled for storage. Photo / Bevan Conley
Whanganui councillors Josh Chandulal-Mackay (left), Rob Vinsen and centre manager Ramari Te Uamairangi stand with plastic baled for storage. Photo / Bevan Conley

They also include plastic supermarket bags. The centre collects about eight fadges of these a week and it takes 40 fadges to compress and make one bale.

China's change of policy has affected the prices of other recyclable product as well. Recyclable prices have always been volatile.

The change has caught New Zealand recyclers on the hop, Whanganui District Council waste adviser Stuart Hylton said.

What's needed are New Zealand businesses to buy and reuse the plastic.

There are businesses looking at the opportunity, but they're nervous they could invest a lot of resources in a new reuse pathway only to have China start buying again, removing their supply of raw material.

Other materials at the centre still have markets and are moving through.

Whanganui shoppers drop off enough supermarket bags to make one 400kg bale a month. Photo / Bevan Conley
Whanganui shoppers drop off enough supermarket bags to make one 400kg bale a month. Photo / Bevan Conley

Whanganui could recycle four times the amount of glass it presently does. Glass is sent to Auckland, for remelting.

Local metal buyers take the aluminium and steel cans.

Paper and cardboard are bought by Oji Fibre Solutions, baled up and shipped out to make lower grade paper or cardboard.