Soft plastic collection may restart within year

The soft plastic recycling scheme, run by the Packaging Forum, has been operating since 2015 and...
Soft plastic recycling was stopped last month but is expected to return within the year. Photo: Christine O'Connor
Soft plastic waste recycling could be reinstated in the southern region within the next 12 months, if all goes to plan for The Packaging Forum's soft plastic recycling scheme.

The scheme has been operating in Countdown and Foodstuffs (New World, Pak'n Save and Four Square) stores since 2015, but the supermarket chains removed the special recycling bins after The Packaging Forum stopped collecting soft plastics last month.

Global recycling changes meant the company was collecting more than it could process in New Zealand.

Recycling scheme chairman Malcolm Everts said the service was suspended to give the company time to work with its processing partners to build capacity, as well as find new and innovative processing solutions.

He said the company planned to restart collections in April, initially in a reduced number of regions.

It was likely to resume in the North Island first, and it was possible the service could resume in Otago and Southland within the next 12 months.

The timing of a relaunch in the southern region would be dependent on increasing processing capacity and the company also wanted South Island processors.

"If we could do that within a year, it would be great, but we have to match what we collect to what we have markets for.

"Phasing in the restart helps us to introduce new logistical arrangements, quality controls and assist balancing collection with our ability to process materials.

"We will reintroduce the scheme to match the available manufacturing capacity."

He said the volumes of soft plastics collected would be monitored, and once the company was confident volumes were stable and/or processing capacity increased, coverage would be increased.

When the scheme was suspended, only 20 tonnes out of the 60 tonnes collected monthly was being reprocessed through two small reprocessors.

The other 40 tonnes was either stockpiled or sent to landfill.

The service was embraced enthusiastically by customers, and the plastics put in the recycling bins were processed into new long-life products, including benches, bollards, decking, plastic posts and ducting for electric cables.

Before the service was offered, soft plastics went straight to landfill.

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