Recyclables to be dumped as landfill at tipping point

The Chinese ban on recyclables is having a direct impact on Greymouth, forcing the Grey District Council rubbish contractor to dump mountains of paper and cardboard.

The McLeans Pit landfill and recycling centre is at the point where it will have to start dumping paper and cardboard because it has run out of dry storage necessary for the material to be sold for recycling.

"We are at the point where some of it will have to go into the landfill unless markets can be found," district assets and engineering manager Mel Sutherland confirmed today.

Other recylable materials could be stored outdoors without affecting their marketable value.

The council meeting this week agreed to temporarily suspend aspects of the recycling contract with Smart Environmental due to market uncertainties.

It agreed to relieve Smart Environmental from its obligation for waste recycling, baling and preparation for sale in the short-term, provided it shows evidence of "best endeavours" to find alternative markets.

It also voted to offer a lump sum ex gratia payment of 20% of "assessed net losses" on a month to month basis -- effective from the commencement of the Chinese ban on recyclables -- known as the 'Chinese sword' -- and to be reviewed by December.

The council retained the right to reinstate the normal contract "as soon as a market for recyclables is found".

The council also decided to undertake a public awareness campaign aimed at reducing waste from each household.

Cr Allan Gibson asked how long the current situation could continue, and the impact on the capacity of the McLeans Pit landfill.

Council chief executive Paul Pretorius said Nelson City had already found a different offset market in Indonesia and West Coast plastics collected by Smart Environmental had gone there, too.

"The biggest problem is you need big sheds to keep it dry ... we hope it will be over quickly but the reality is China was a very convenient market," Mr Pretorius said.

District assets and engineering manager Mel Sutherland said the new cell under construction at McLeans Pit was projected to last about seven years.

The change to the paper and cardboard recycling situation at this point was expected to reduce the life of the new cell by about nine months.

Cr Anton Becker wondered if council should look at burning it.

Mr Pretorius said it was best at this stage to "see what happens" rather than react arbitrarily.

"There is a regional approach to this which may work."

Cr Peter Haddock said the cost to ratepayers was a concern given the ex gratia payment to Smart Environmental backdated to last December when the Chinese sword fell.

Mr Pretorius said it was in the contractor's best interests to get money out of recyclables collected, with losses amounting to at least $50,000 so far.

Overall, the country "must produce less waste" and tougher measures would have to be put in place, with a role by the Government, he said.

"Waste disposed in New Zealand is very cheap. Therefore it must be made more expensive -- but the solution is not that easy."

 - Brendan McMahon

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