More soft plastics recycling tipped

Bins can be found at participating New World, Woolworths and Countdown outlets. Photo: ODT files
Bins can be found at participating New World, Woolworths and Countdown outlets. Photo: ODT files
The return of a soft plastics recycling scheme to Dunedin is so far resulting in about 2 tonnes being collected a month.

That is expected to increase, as people get used to seeing recycling bins for soft plastics at supermarkets and The Warehouse.

Two tonnes amounts to about 300,000 bags or wrappers, which is enough to make about 200 fence posts.

Nine stores in Dunedin and Mosgiel are participating in the collection, which restarted in September last year.

The Packaging Forum collections in Dunedin and Mosgiel were halted in November 2022 because of the scheme losing access to a baler to compress plastic and storage issues.

Those logistical challenges were overcome.

The scheme also expanded into Central Otago last year. It is run in Alexandra, as well as Queenstown, Wanaka and Oamaru.

Soft plastics are not accepted by council kerbside recycling collections.

Those collections, which are moving towards a standardised service from Thursday, accept rigid plastics - or those numbered 1, 2 and 5.

For people who want to go the extra mile, The Packaging Forum’s soft plastics scheme provides an option for disposing of bread bags, cereal box liners, chip packets and biscuit packets.

It is supported by both the Foodstuffs and Woolworths supermarket companies, and the bins can be found at participating New World, Woolworths and Countdown outlets.

In Dunedin, Waste Management collects and bales the soft plastic, which is transported to Future Post’s new Blenheim facility for recycling into fence posts destined for farms and wineries.

The posts are also used for raised garden beds.

AllWaste collects the plastic from the participating shops in Alexandra, Queenstown Lakes and Wanaka.

The Packaging Forum soft plastic recycling scheme manager Lyn Mayes said contamination rates were low, typically less than 5%.

"Customers dropping off their soft plastic for recycling are extremely conscientious and present their bags and wrappers clean, dry and empty", she said.

However, some people wrongly saw the bins as rubbish bins.

"We ask people not to put metal objects in the soft plastic recycling bin, as these can cause significant damage to Future Post’s recycling plant", Ms Mayes said.

A Woolworths spokesman said 117 Woolworths and Countdown supermarkets in New Zealand were part of the scheme.

"In 2023 alone, over 150 tonnes of soft plastics were collected from our stores and delivered to Future Post", he said.

"We are constantly asked about availability and, if we’re able to offer it, we find customers get on board quickly and start bringing their soft plastics in.

"However, we do see occasional setbacks with the wrong materials going in the soft plastics bin."

Foodstuffs sustainable packaging programme manager Debra Goulding said last year customers believed it was important to be able to recycle soft plastic.

The co-operative was delighted when New World supermarkets in Dunedin and Mosgiel were once again able to join forces with "a wider team of dedicated collectors, transporters and processors to make this work".

Cottonsoft Dunedin is also a foundation supporter of the scheme.