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All of Queenstown's glass ‘‘recycling'' is being sent to the town's Victoria Flats landfill.
The Queenstown Lake District Council confirmed glass had not been recycled by contractor Fulton Hogan since March.
‘‘It's a huge disappointment'' environmental campaigner Rob Dickinson, of Queenstown Anti-Plastic Population and Sea Shepherd, said.
‘‘I've been telling everyone ‘why aren't we using glass' [instead of plastic], so for it to just go in landfill is a disgrace really.
‘‘Surely the council should be telling us about this, then we can do something as well.''
Council infrastructure head Peter Hansby said the burying of glass would continue until new markets could be sourced or new processes put in place.
Mixed ‘‘recycling'' was collected by AllWaste and separated at the Wakatipu Recycling Centre in Frankton by Smart Environmental.
Fulton Hogan was contracted to take clean glass to its Parkburn quarry in Cromwell, where it was crushed and ‘‘reused'' in roading aggregate. But that arrangement ended in March.
Mr Hansby said this was due to ‘‘there not being a local market for glass with high levels of contamination''.
Even before March, on average about a quarter of the glass placed in blue bins was sent to landfill because it was contaminated by other waste.
Glass made up about 40% of all the recycling in Queenstown, or 8kg per person, per year.
Queenstown deputy mayor Lyal Cocks, responsible for oversight of waste management, said kerbside colour-separation of glass, as in Wanaka, could be the future.
‘‘People don't want to buy glass when there's a whole mixture of colours. Some colours are more attractive [economically] than others. So we sort it at the kerbside in Wanaka. We've got a different contract here.''
Recycle collection and processing contracts expire in 2018.
Cr Cocks said Queenstown people should continue to place glass in recycling bins because it was ‘‘good cultural practice''.
‘‘And this is a temporary thing, it won't go on forever. But until those contracts are renewed, and we can look at cleverer ways of collecting and sorting the glass, that's the way it is.''
He was waiting on a report from council staff about alternative markets and sorting practices.
Fulton Hogan communications head Abby Shaw said the company did not have a formal contract with the council for management of its glass recycling.
She said ‘‘clean glass'' was crushed and recycled at its facilities, and the end product was used in roading products.
But she did not comment specifically on the market for mixed crushed glass.
Smart Environmental, which runs the recycling plant, referred queries to the council.
AllWaste head Peter Carnahan could not be contacted because he was overseas until next month.
-Paul Taylor, Mountain Scene