Palmerston North residents are being challenged to clean up their recycling act or risk losing the collection service.
The city council is this week starting a three-strikes campaign to encourage people to keep rubbish out of the recycling bins.
Used tissues, grass clippings, ashes, food waste and toys are among the offerings being found in recycling bins, creating high contamination rates.
City council rubbish and recycling asset engineer Natasha Simmons said Palmerston North residents were among the worst in the country for putting the wrong things in the recycling bin.
Nationally, contamination rates were 8 per cent to 10 per cent. In Palmerston North, the rates were twice as high, and as bad as 40 per cent in some areas.
From now on, the contents of each recycling bin will be closely monitored, and yellow reminder stickers will be attached to bins containing a noticeable amount of non-recyclable items. Ms Simmons hoped that that would be enough for many people, who were simply confused about what products the council's recycling plant could accept.
But for repeat offenders, the next step would be a yellow sticker, and if the amount of rubbish in the bin was bad enough, drivers would refuse to empty it.
The third strike would be a red sticker telling people any further deviation from the rules could result in their collection service being suspended.
Ms Simmons said contamination of the recycling collection cost money.
It increased sorting costs, it increased the amount of wear and tear on machinery at the recycling plant, and the council had to pay to dump the rubbish.
Staff were able to identify the worst offenders, as on-board cameras captured footage of the contents of each bin as it was emptied into the truck.
Ms Simmons said the clampdown was necessary as a back-up to education, because staff suspected some people were simply using the orange-lidded bin as their rubbish bin.
"We can see that some people are just emptying the contents of their kitchen bin bag straight in."
Other items that suggested people did not care included sanitary items, used tissues and paper towels, televisions, hoses, metal and glass.
While some of those items were biodegradable, or could be taken to a specialist recycler, they did not belong in the bin.
The crackdown on recycling will also apply to glass collections.
"That's not such a bad contamination problem, but we still find window glass, mirrors, light bulbs and crockery."
Drivers would be sorting through glass in the crates, taking what could be recycled, and leaving the rest behind with a purple sticker explaining why it was not collected.
And the drive to ensure people paid for and used official rubbish bags would continue.
Rubbish left out in the wrong sort of bags would not be collected, with a pink sticker attached explaining why.
"We want to make it clear to people that we left the rubbish behind on purpose.
"We did not just miss it."
RULES OF RECYCLING
What goes in the orange-lidded bin: Paper, cardboard, newspaper, magazines, office paper, envelopes, plastics numbered 1 to 7, plastic meat trays, plastic shopping bags and bread bags, empty aerosol cans, aluminium cans, tins, lids, foil
What does not: Cloth or clothing, food waste, green waste, food contaminated items, wax-coated cups, wax-lined cartons, hazardous materials, for example pesticides, batteries or used oil, general waste
- © Fairfax NZ News
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