Council against rural ban on burning plastics

Last updated 06:55 31/07/2014
Taranaki Regional Council's director of environmental quality Gary Bedford
Fairfax NZ
WHERE THERE'S SMOKE: Taranaki Regional Council's director of environmental quality Gary Bedford says that from an environmental perspective, it's hard to argue that putting plastic wrap on a roaring fire will have signaificant environmental impact.

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A ban on burning plastic is unlikely to be introduced in the Taranaki countryside, although urban backyard fires have been banned since 2011.

More restrictions in Taranaki are doubtful, even though they are being promoted by Agrecovery Foundation chairman Graeme Peters, who says bans on burning lead to more recycling of plastic.

Recycling has surged 113 per cent in Canterbury since burning was banned at the start of this year.

Container recycling increased to 36,140kg in the six months after the ban was introduced, up from 16,960kg of containers for the same period last year.

"We are calling on other councils to implement new bans or do more to enforce existing bans," he said.

Taranaki Regional Council's director of environmental quality Gary Bedford said he preferred incentives and free collections that encouraged recycling to a ban on burning.

Although only 5350kg of plastic containers was collected in Taranaki in the 2013-14 year, that was almost double the amount collected the previous year and was the third highest percentage increase in the country.

"We're delighted to see that increase - although there's still some way to go," Bedford said.

He said the level of recycling in Taranaki had improved significantly in the past 10 years. Taranaki recycled 5350kg, 11th of 16 regions, but the 95 per cent increase was the third-highest behind Southland at 14,050kg, up 119 per cent and Greater Wellington at 4595kg, up 110 per cent.

He did not know why the amount collected in Taranaki was so much lower than regions such as Waikato where the total was 24,005kg and Manawatu-Wanganui where 14,520kg of containers were recycled.

However, there was anecdotal evidence that waste management companies in Taranaki provided such a good service that farmers tossed all rubbish into hired bins, rather than sort plastic that could be recycled.

He said the council was pleased farmers were getting rid of rubbish from their farms but it also wanted them to recycle when possible.

"We certainly encourage farmers and the rest of the community to do what they can to recycle products."

Plastic wrap burned cleanly, so a ban was hard to justify.

"From an environmental perspective, it's hard to argue that putting plastic wrap on a roaring fire will have a significant environmental impact.

"While better recovery of silage wrap was desirable, its disposal was a waste-management issue, not one of resource management."

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The regional council supported the imposition of levies on agrichemical containers to encourage recycling, and recognised it would be more effective if all companies did it. Even so, such a levy did not address the problem of disposing of silage wrap.

Bedford said the Government already had the power under the Waste Minimisation Act to implement stewardship schemes that would require recycling of certain products such as agrichemical containers, televisions and fridges.

He said there was a clear groundswell of opinion for such schemes, which he predicted would be introduced sooner rather than later.

- Taranaki Daily News

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