Plastic shopping bags will now be recyclable under $1.2 million government project.
Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced on Saturday the government is partnering with the retail sector and packaging industry to allow recycling of thousands of tonnes of plastics like shopping bags that currently cannot be recycled.
“The problem is that soft plastics like shopping bags, bread bags, frozen food bags and food wrap are not accepted by kerbside recycling services and cannot currently be recycled in New Zealand. We are investing in a new drop-off recycling service at stores and new recycling infrastructure that will enable soft plastics to be re-used,” Smith said.
That’s way preferable to banning them.
The initiative will be funded through a $700,000 grant to the Packaging Forum and a $510,000 grant to Astron Plastics Group from the Government’s Waste Minimisation Fund.
The Packaging Forum grant will part fund a trial of the new recycling service at The Warehouse, Pak ‘n’ Save, New World and Countdown stores across Auckland.
A new dry-cleaning facility in Auckland will have the capacity to recycle 2000 tonnes of soft plastics and will reduce the requirement to import new “plastic polymers,” Smith said.
“This approach has proved successful in Australia through the Coles Group and saved thousands of tonnes of plastic going to landfill. The longer-term objective of this initiative would be for 70 per cent of New Zealanders to have access to a drop-off facility for soft plastics within 20 kilometres of their home.”
“This is a more sensible approach than a ban or a compulsory levy on just plastic shopping bags. These bags make up only 0.2 per cent of waste going to landfill, and only 10 per cent of plastic waste. Nor can a ban or a compulsory levy be justified when plastic shopping bags only make up 1.5 per cent of the litter items in nationwide litter surveys,” Smith said.
New Zealanders use over 1.6 billion plastic bags in the home every year, according to Lyn Mayes, manager of the Public Place Recycling Scheme which will manage the project.
The number of plastic bags we acquire from supermarkets tends to be exactly equal to the number we use to wrap up the trash. They’re very useful.