Fonterra in recycling push
Dairy giant Fonterra is trying to encourage more recycled products being made out of its Anchor light-proof bottles instead of having the empties shipped overseas. After research showed light was bad for milk, the bottle was changed from transparent to coloured high density polyethylene (HDPE) and the opaque bottles hit the shop shelves in April.
There was a backlash from consumers, especially with regard to recycling, with some industry players saying the more complex packaging made the bottles difficult to handle. Fonterra group marketing manager Craig Irwin said despite consumer confusion, the bottles had always been recyclable and made of the same high grade plastic as other milk bottles.
This wasn't the issue though for the recycling industry.
Some recyclers said last month that their mechanical sorters struggled to deal with the new bottle's lack of light penetration and recognised it instead as low- grade mixed plastics. The difference in returns for recyclers between low and high grade plastic is huge. It also didn't make financial sense to sort out specific products by hand.
Irwin believes it is no more time consuming or expensive for transfer stations to separate out the bottles. "That's their job - to separate different plastics."
More than six tonnes of the light-proof bottles had been recycled already, Fonterra said, and it blamed some stations not separating out the bottles on lack of awareness of the commercial benefits of selling the plastic from the bottles to New Zealand recycled product manufacturers. The cost of transporting the plastic within New Zealand was cheaper than shipping it overseas, said Fonterra's environmental manager Nic Bishop.
By raising awareness and educating the different industry players, he expected more bottles to be made into new products.
Under Fonterra's new closed loop recycling push, recycling separators will be lined up with recycled product manufacturers.
Bishop said kerbside collectors and transfer stations or community recycling stations would accept the bottles.
The manufacturers said they would pay transfer and recycling stations about $400 per tonne for the bottles compared to the about $80 per tonne for mixed-grade plastics the transfer stations were being paid in China, Bishop said.
The recycled product manufacturers would turn the bottles into new products including recycling bins, agricultural pipes and drainage coils. Astron had already been recycling the bottles and business manager Steve Mead said from a processing perspective there was no difference between the opaque and clear HDPE plastic.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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