Council calls time on plastic bags

PLEASE, NO MORE: Peter Siddall, Awapuni Operations Manager, with just over an hour's worth of plastic shopping bags.
PLEASE, NO MORE: Peter Siddall, Awapuni Operations Manager, with just over an hour's worth of plastic shopping bags.

Plastic bags are no longer wanted by Palmerston North's recycling service.

They have been going to the dump for months and will not be allowed in recycling bins from next month.

An economic, environmentally friendly solution for recycling plastic bags has eluded the Palmerston North City Council.

From Monday, April 28, residents will not be allowed to put them in their wheelie bins or drop them off for recycling.

Council rubbish and recycling asset engineer Natasha Simmons said there was no market for plastic bags, and they also caused problems at the Awapuni recycling plant.

For several months, the council has been collecting 3 to 4 tonnes of bags every week and sending them to the Bonny Glen landfill.

The last plastic bag sales were in February and November, 2012, to VISY Australia. The company has a plant in Australia, and also sells used bags on to destinations in Asia.

Most often, used plastic bags and film were used to make more bags, wrap and some containers.

"We have continued to collect them up until now in the hope that the market would bounce back, but it just hasn't," Ms Simmons said.

But the decision was not based on only economics.

Plastic bags caused trouble at the Materials Recycling Facility at Awapuni, where staff had to remove them manually from the sorting line.

Those that were missed often got tangled in the machinery, causing breakdowns.

Others escaped from the plant on windy days and were blown away.

Ms Simmonds said it was sad to be withdrawing a service when people were doing their best to be responsible about recycling.

It was frustrating that despite the council's goal to make Palmerston North a sustainable city, there was no solution for the plastic bag problem but to stop using them in the first place.

Ms Simmons said some people were already struggling to change the habit of putting their recycling into plastic bags - which was the practice with early kerbside recycling collections before wheelie bins were rolled out.

When the recycling plant was busy, staff sometimes did not have time to rip open plastic bags and remove them from the flow.

The efforts of those who had put things that could be recycled into bags was wasted when the bags and their contents had to be thrown away, she said.

For the first few weeks after the change, residents who continue to put plastic bags in the recycling will receive friendly reminders.

But after Monday, June 30, those who persist will be issued with contaminated recycling bin strike notices, which could lead to suspension of collection services.

The council has already stopped collecting from a group of about 40 residents until they agree to stop putting rubbish out in the recycling bins.

The ban on plastic bags includes all shopping bags, bread bags, clothing and retailing plastic bags, food or cling wrap, bubble wrap, frozen vegetable and cereal plastic bags.

About meat trays: Clean, ribbed plastic meat trays can be recycled. Soft, absorbent polystyrene ones cannot.

Manawatu Standard