HDPE bottles and symbol

As a plastic manufacturer and retailer, it’s incredibly important to us at IFP that we are environmentally responsible. Part of this is encouraging recycling, and using recycled plastics when possible.

Plastic, when used responsibly, is the most environmentally friendly option for packaging.

  • Glass is very heavy, so transportation creates a bigger carbon footprint. It also needs high heat to be recycled which adds to the cost of recycling
  • Degradable plastics and paper are one-use items and can never be used again. They also don’t break down unless they are in specific conditions, which are hard to achieve

Plastic is light and endlessly recyclable. After many years of studies, scientists have found that using plastic is the best choice for the environment. But this is only true if it is recycled in order to close the loop.

In NZ, there are multiple challenges in regard to recycling. One of which is that there is no standardised approach for measuring or reporting plastic flow through the system. We simply don’t have enough data on plastic coming in, what’s being recycled or dumped, and where the recycling is being sent.

While the government is keen to develop consistency across the country, most councils have different recycling rules. So while some plastics can be recycled in the country, some regions may not be collecting them. It’s all very ad-hoc and needs a more holistic approach.

But one of the biggest challenges is recycling this plastic on-shore. Sending things overseas adds to the miles, making it an unsustainable option, and dumping in a landfill makes it highly unlikely it will degrade. So, what plastic types can be recycled in NZ?

Is Plastic 1 Recycled in NZ?

Yes, Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) plastic is recycled in NZ. It’s cleaned, crushed, shredded, and then reprocessed into a wide variety of products.

Is Plastic 2 Recycled in NZ?

Yes, High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is recycled in NZ. This stiff plastic is washed and melted down, then can be turned into durable and weather-resistant things like picnic tables and decking.

Is Plastic 3 Recycled in NZ?

PVC plastic products are not recycled in NZ, nor should they be reused/ repurposed for food or as children’s items.

Is Plastic 4 Recycled in NZ?

LDPE can be recycled in NZ but it needs to be clean and clear plastic film only. As a result, this is often limited to commercial recycling such as shrink and pallet wrap.

Is Plastic 5 Recycled in NZ?

Polypropylene (PP) is the easiest to recycle plastic in NZ. However, demand for the recycled plastic is higher than the supply; Kiwis simply are not recycling enough number 5 plastic. As a result, the recycled materials are important from overseas in order to meet demand—1000 tons worth.

Is Plastic 6 Recycled in NZ?

It’s not commonly recycled in NZ, but there are some small regional programmes.

Is Plastic 7 Recycled in NZ?

Some of it can be. Type 7 is ‘other’, and a blend of a number of other plastics, making it very tricky to recycle.

What About Silicone?

If you have some discarded silicon products, send them to Munch. They are running a pilot programme to repurpose silicone.

Who Recycles in NZ?

If your organisation wants to recycle your waste plastic, there are several options. Some of them include:

  • Flight Plastics (PACT) in Lower Hutt take PET plastic and turns it into the valuable pellets that are used to create a lot of different items
  • Second Life Plastics turn a LDPE type 4 and HDPE into a huge range of products
  • EXPOL have partnered with various hardware store to collect clean expanded foam polystyrene
  • FuturePost takes type 7 plastic and turns it into fence posts. They also take the LDPE soft plastic bags that you might leave at supermarket recycling bins
  • AB Plastic Recycle in Penrose can recycle HDPE, LDPE, PET, PP, PE, PVC, PS, LLDPE
  • NZ Made Limited in Palmerston North recycle HDPE, PP
  • Comspec in Christchurch recycle HDPE
  • Visy in Onehunga recycle a number of different types of plastics

The Challenges in Recycling Plastic in NZ

There are multiple reasons that NZ is so behind in terms of plastic recycling.

  • Kiwis are one of the biggest contributors to plastic waste per capita in the world. Each Kiwi throws out 31kg of plastic each year and recycles only 5.58kgs, compared to the likes of India, where they only throw out 15kg each. That’s about 21,171 ton of plastic throw away each year in NZ. It’s estimated that less than 10,000 tonnes of plastic is recycled on shore each year, and 380,000 tonnes of plastic is landfilled (2015 data).
  • We simply don’t have the capacity to process all that plastic; we need bigger volumes of plastic in order to make recycling worth it.
  • Also, a huge problem with recycling is contamination. A stray red plastic container will ruin an entire batch of white plastic. As a result, coloured plastics are unlikely to be recycled, instead they go to landfill. Christchurch’s sorting facilities just had an upgrade which will allow them to meet the 0.5% contamination threshold, making it easier to sell internationally. However, that cost $16.8 million.
  • We also have approximately 11% vacant roles in NZ’s waste sector, there’s not enough people to work in all the jobs.
  • NZ’s recycling rate, across all types, is only 28%. NZers are not great at recycling.
  • While there’s some one-off recycling schemes like Terracycle, who take a range of product packaging such as Colgate, Nescafe, or MECCA containers, it’s a very ad-hoc situation and it takes consumers a lot of effort to find out where things should go.

What Can Your Organization Do?

If you are a business who sell an item with packaging, there are steps you can take to help NZ reduce waste and increase recycling.

  • Where possible, package items in 1, 2, and 5 plastic types. These are all easily recycled in NZ. Number 5 ‘PP’ plastic especially is in demand.
  • Encourage your customers to wash and recycle your packaging. Rinsing or running through the dishwasher cycle in the top shelf is enough. Also confirm that this packaging can be put in their council recycling bin.
  • If your plastic type can’t be recycled easily, find a way to recycle it and direct consumers there, or develop a re-use scheme yourself
  • Avoid overpackaging

Talk to us at IFP. We have recycled products you can use, and we can also assist you in choosing a more recyclable plastic option. Let’s close the loop, and encourage recycling in NZ.


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