Plastic reduction takes priority

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A COMMUNITY demonstration on worm farming in Opotiki is well attended. Photo supplied

FOLLOWING China’s ban on taking foreign waste, councils are facing a dilemma, continue paying costly recycling rates for recycling to be stockpiled elsewhere, or dump it themselves and save.

This problem has arisen after China, which was previously the world’s recycling centre, refused to take certain types of plastic waste from January onwards.

Previously, New Zealand sent 15 million kilograms of waste annually to China but now our recycling centres, as well as those worldwide are struggling to find new markets.

With waste flooding the market, prices are extremely low, so many recycling centres are now having to stockpile waste while trying to find buyers, or are choosing to stockpile it to wait for a better price.

Opotiki Mayor John Forbes said the Opotiki District Council already spent “millions of dollars” on waste disposal each year, and this new development could increase that price.

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He said if higher costs came from the changes, Opotiki may be forced to send the goods to landfill, in spite of the town’s good history with recycling.

“We’re the longest running council in the country with a zero-waste policy.

“We’ve been trying to put everything into recycling that we can, and we started that a very long time ago,” said Mr Forbes.

With boomerang bags in Opotiki reducing the use of single-use plastic bags and Mitre 10 no longer offering them, Mr Forbes said the town should be pushing for a plastic-free future.

“I would really like to see us work on reducing our consumption of plastics,” he said.

Currently, Opotiki sends non-recyclable waste to a landfill in Tirohia, meaning the council is paying for the long-distance transport and disposal of residual waste.

“Waste is incredibly expensive to deal with, so when we separate out things for recycling it reduces the cost to us as a community,” said Mr Forbes.

The only plastics that can be recycled in New Zealand are grades 1 and 2. The rest, which includes shampoo bottles, coloured drink bottles, margarine containers and ice cream containers, has previously been sent overseas.

Mr Forbes said he would like to see this change in coming years.

“I’d like to see some national goals set to make us the first plastic-free country in the world.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, but let’s set a goal as a nation.”

Nationally a task-force is now in the process of being set up by the Ministry of Environment to deal with China’s ban.

“The ban has had a greater impact than the industry expected, and we need a co-ordinated response from central and local government, together with the waste and business centres,” said associate environment minister Eugenie Sage.

“Several small stockpiles of materials have been building around the country, where smaller operators don’t have ready access to alternative markets.

“The Government is using funds from the waste levy to invest in projects that will accelerate New Zealand’s transition to a circular economy, including investing in onshore recycling plants.”

Ms Sage said the Government was also looking at options such as expanding the waste levy to more landfills; improving the data it has on waste and other tools to reduce the environmental harm of products such as product stewardship, levies and bans.

On Tuesday, World Environment Day, 12 companies committed to using 100 per cent recyclable packaging by 2025.

New Zealand based Foodstuffs (Pak‘n Save, New World and Four Square), Countdown, New Zealand Post, Frucor Suntory and multinationals Amcor, Danone, L’Oreal, Mars, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Unilever and Nestle all signed the NZ Plastic Packaging Declaration.

Waste Management Tauranga could not be contacted for comment.

Worms help keep waste out of landfills

WASTE Education New Zealand is set to give Opotiki a demonstration on worm farming on Saturday, June 23, at the Senior Citizens’ Hall, promoting a zero-waste future.

The workshop will cost $10 per person and run from 1pm to 3pm, where attendees will be given information and materials needed to create their own worm farm.

Money from the day will be donated to the Opotiki Lions Club whose members are volunteering at the workshop.

Attendees will need to register before the event, either at www.zerowasteeducation.co.nz or through workshop co-ordinator Kathy Broadhead at kathybroadheadzerowasteeducation@gmail.com or 027 842 5645.

The workshop is limited to 30 spaces.

“The community worm composting workshop is being held in Opotiki to help residents reduce waste to landfill, create organic fertiliser for their gardens, and save money on rubbish disposal,” said Ms Broadhead.

The idea is that organic waste is fed to tiger worms, who then turn it into a powerful fertiliser to be used in gardens, where all waste products are returned to the worms to repeat the process.

Waste Education New Zealand already runs workshops in schools and communities, but this will be first in the Eastern Bay.

“Worm composting is a simple and effective way to reduce organic waste to landfill.

“In New Zealand almost half of all waste sent to landfill could have been composted,” Ms Broadhead said.

“I’m really keen to get communities reducing waste.”

She added that if the event was successful, there could be more like it in the future and in neighbouring communities.

james.sandbrook@whakatanebeacon.co.nz