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EcoCentral has advised the Christchurch City Council it is temporarily suspending operations at its Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), which means there is no capacity to sort and process the mixed paper, plastic and glass put out for recycling.
"This is not an ideal situation but EcoCentral is concerned about the safety of its staff and their potential exposure to COVID-19," said council city services general manager David Adamson.
"EcoCentral staff have to handle the recycling to remove contaminated products and that puts them at risk."
There is no capacity to store the recyclable material so it will have to go to landfill until the MRF resumes operations.
Mr Adamson said if people are struggling to fit all their general rubbish in their red wheelie bin during the lockdown, they can put any excess in the yellow wheelie bin. However, this will be a short-term measure only.
"We’re relaxing the rules for the period of the lockdown but as soon as the MRF reopens we will need people to resume using their yellow bins for accepted recyclable materials only.
"We cannot afford to let contaminated materials into the recycling stream - every 1 per cent of contamination costs us about $75,000," Mr Adamson said.
"Please make sure that you continue to only put organic materials in the green wheelie bin. Bins should continue to be put out at the normal time," he said.
If people are having issues with the capacity of their wheelie bins, they should call the city council call centre on 0800 800 149 or 941-8999.