Recycled paper mountain is re-used

PILED HIGH: Awapuni Recycling Centre supervisor Pete Siddall stands on a mountain of recyclables.
PILED HIGH: Awapuni Recycling Centre supervisor Pete Siddall stands on a mountain of recyclables.

Paper makes up almost two-thirds of the recycling collected from Palmerston North kerbside bins, and it is all re-used in New Zealand.

The city council has released a report on what happens to the city's recycled goods after the Women's Health Collective asked whether it was being disposed of in the most ethical way.

Spokeswoman Jean Hera said some "horrible" reports were coming from China about the conditions people worked in to sort and dispose of recycling that was shipped in from around the world.

"It would be good for those of us in the community who worry about things like that to know that good decisions are being made.

"It is good that people put things in their recycling bins, but we need to think about the bigger picture, of what happens next."

General manager for City Enterprises, Ray McIndoe, said in the first 10 months of kerbside glass and recycling collections after a change in the system, an average 155 tonnes of glass was collected each month, and 400 tonnes of other recyclables.

Paper made up 65 per cent of the general recycling, followed by cardboard at 14 per cent. In third place was general rubbish – things that should not have gone into the orange-lidded bins at all.

Steel made up 3 per cent of recycling. PET clear and coloured plastics, milk bottles, plastic bags and wrap, aluminium and other plastics made up 1 or 2 per cent each. Two-thirds of the glass collected is sold to OI-Glass in Auckland to make more glass products. The rejected third is used on site under roading for backfill and in construction projects.

Paper and cardboard is taken by Fullcircle to Kinleith, Whakatane and Penrose to be recycled into new products. Strong's Metals buys steel and aluminium cans. Steel cans are recycled in New Zealand into fabrication steel for the building and manufacturing industry.

Aluminium cans are sold to Australian and Japanese companies to be recycled into aluminium products. There is no industry in New Zealand able to process them.

Strong's manager Graeme Ellwood said because the cans were crushed and baled they could be shipped directly to the end users without any off-shore labour going into sorting or handling.

The PET plastics are sold to Aotearoa International, a preferred supplier of the Plastics Recyclers of New Zealand, which exports them to Hong Kong companies to be turned into pellets or flakes to produce fibre.

Milk and similar bottles go to Railway Rd-based Budget Plastics to produce 80-litre plastic bags and pellets for a local company producing pipes.

Plastic bags and shrink wrap are exported to Hong Kong, in the absence of a New Zealand processor, and are used for producing the sort of film used in tunnel houses.

A small volume of plastics, for which there is no ethically agreeable market, are sent to the landfill.

Ms Hera said recycling as close to home as possible was best, and she was pleased to see those solutions being used wherever possible.

Shipping products overseas had drawbacks both in terms of the way workers were sometimes treated in low-wage economies, and because of the fuel and expense of transport.

"I do trust this report, and it would be good to get regular reports like this. We still have a few concerns."

Manawatu Standard