Plastic bag ban starts to sink in
Plastic bags were part of the reason for about one in six of the strike notices the Palmerston North City Council issued for misuse of recycling bins during July.
The council stopped accepting plastic bags in kerbside recycling collection bins at the beginning of the month, after a four-month lead-up to the change.
The ban was needed because there was no economic market for any types of plastic bags, including shopping, supermarket, cereal, biscuit and bread bags, and they caused problems at the recycling plant.
Rubbish and recycling asset engineer Natasha Simmons said there had been a dramatic drop in the numbers of plastic bags arriving at the plant since the ban was announced, with a further gradual decline last month.
The hard line taken since the beginning of July had not caused a huge surge in the numbers of strike notices being stuck on recycling bins, she said.
During July, 111 strike 1 notices, 152 strike 2s and 49 strike 3s had been issued to people who had put plastic bags in their bins - a total of 312.
In many cases, the presence of plastic bags was only part of the problem.
Overall, there were 1939 strike notices issued during the first four weeks of the new regime.
There were 301 households at strike 3, which meant the council would refuse to empty the bin until residents tidied up their act, and the council reserved the right to take the bin away and suspend the collection service.
Simmons said most people started complying with the council's list of what recyclable items could be accepted after the first or second notice.
Sometimes it took a call or a visit to explain the system, and the council was constantly trying to improve the way it communicated and educated people.
The efforts were paying off at the materials recovery facility, where the drop in volumes of plastic bags and other contamination made working conditions more pleasant.
"The plant smells better, everyone is much happier, it's cleaner, it's easier to sort, there is less obstruction, there is less down time and our productivity is much better."
Simmons said with less contamination to be disposed of, the council's costs for taking waste to the landfill were also reduced.