Grace period over for plastic bags in recycling

Putting plastic bags in Palmerston North recycling bins is prohibited from this week.

The city council said it would no longer accept a full range of types of plastic bags in March, but gave residents three months to change their habits before getting tough.

The decision was made because there was no longer an economic way of getting rid of the bags, and they were being dumped at the region's landfill.

The bags also caused problems at the recycling plant, getting tangled in the mechanics, forcing shutdowns, as well as blowing away on windy days.

Waste and water services manager Rob Green said during the "grace" period, the volume of plastic bags being collected had dropped by 60 per cent to 70 per cent, which was "fantastic".

"This tells us that residents are taking notice."

In the lead-up to the change, all of the city's more than 28,000 recycling bin users received reminder notices alerting them to the end of June deadline.

Green said some people had worried that the reminders targeted them personally, but they were general reminders, not warnings.

Rubbish collectors would be checking the contents of all bins from now on, and anyone who persisted in putting plastic bags in the recycling would be issued with strike notices.

"Our collectors will be issuing a Contaminated Recycling Bin Strike notice for anyone who continues to add plastic bags to their recycling bin contents," he said.

After three strike notices, the council reserved the right to stop the recycling service at a property and take away the bin.

The ban applies to all types of plastic bags, including shopping bags, bread bags, plastic cling wrap, bubble wrap, and frozen vegetable and cereal bags.

The ban also affects Massey University's Manawatu campus, which had until this week been collecting plastic bags for recycling.

Green said strike notices were already being issued routinely to people who put the wrong things in their recycling bins.

During the week starting June 16, the council issued 362 first strike notices, 146 second strike notices, and 101 third strike notices - the final figure representing 0.3 per cent of all bins.

Green said people given a Strike 3 notice usually complied once they received a visit from a council staff member.

"We have only had to remove the service from one or two people so far for continued non-compliance.

"We find that it is often a case of people not fully understanding what should go into the bins rather than deliberate contamination."

Green said the council was continuing to explore options for recycling plastic bags in future, but it would have to be a system separate from the mixed recycling accepted in people's bins.

However, it appeared likely that the costs of collecting plastic bags separately would exceed the price anyone would offer for them.

Manawatu Standard