Saturday, 11 July 2020


What to recycle

By Stephan Bosman and Jordan Gower

After the front page editorial in The Informer of 1 August about the recycling crisis at SMART Environmental’s recycling plant in Kopu, we’ve tried to obtain more clarity on what is acceptable recycling and what should, for the moment at least, rather go into general waste, destined for landfill.


There seems to be a lot of confusion about the types of plastic that can be recycled.

SMART Environmental, the waste management company contracted by Thames Coromandel District Company to collect and dispose of recycling on the Coromandel Peninsula, has at the moment great difficulty getting rid of plastics numbered three to seven. Plastics numbered one and two - polyethylene (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) - are still in demand.

Waste management companies and local councils around New Zealand are in the same situation as SMART Environmental. “Recycling in New Zealand and worldwide is currently in a crisis following China, [the world’s biggest recycling purchaser], shutting its doors to [the majority of recycled plastics],” says Layne Sefton, a SMART Environmental regional manager.

However, Ron Tuiavii, Thames-Coromandel District Council’s solid waste contract manager, says plastics one to seven are still being collected at the kerbside for recycling. “Given the changes in the international plastics recycling market, we may have to look at some point at making some changes to what can be recycled and what not. If any changes are to be made, we will clearly communicate those with all the Coromandel Peninsula's ratepayers and residents."

We’ve asked Grahame Christian, the SMART Environmental managing director, to comment on the current disconnect between TCDC and SMART Environmental with regard to the types of plastics that consumers should recycle. We haven’t heard from him.

From the perspective of a consumer, the recycling of plastics one and two are encouraged. This includes soft drink, mineral water, fruit juice and cooking oil bottles, as well as laundry detergent, bleach, liquid soap, shampoo bottles and “regular” milk bottles. All other plastics, including light-proof milk bottles and milk bottle caps, will most probably find their way to landfill, either from consumers directly (via the blue TCDC plastic rubbish bags or the new red Coastal Bins wheelie bins) or through the SMART Environmental recycling plant in Kopu. According to Layne Sefton, light proof milk bottles are deemed to be a mixed plastic (number seven) because of their black interior lining.


Uncontaminated paper and cardboard can be recycled. Used tissues and toilet paper are considered “contaminated,” as are oily pizza boxes. Newspapers, banana boxes and soap boxes are all examples of uncontaminated fibre materials that are suitable for the recycle bin. Paper and cardboard lined with plastic (e.g. takeaway containers with a “waxy” inside) aren’t recyclable. 


Aluminium, including soft drink and tinned food cans and clean tin foil, is the most commonly recycled material on a per ton basis. It’s more environmentally friendly than most other recycling materials as it takes less energy to recycle than manufacturing it in the first place.


Glass recycling should be kept separate from other recycling. It has less of an environmental impact than most other recycling materials when initially produced.

SMART Environmental was spotted the past few weeks mixing glass recycling with general waste kerbside in Whitianga. We’ve also asked Grahame Christian if there was a reason for that happening, also without reply. Ron Tuiavii told us that TCDC was aware of some of the instances where that has happened and they have raised the issue with SMART Environmental.


Remember to give your recycling a quick scrub, remove the labels, and, as most plastic lids fall into plastics three to seven, remove the lids and put them in your general waste or separately in your recycling bin (if you choose to continue to recycle plastics three to seven).

Also, be aware of your purchases. Think about the amount of plastic coming in and out of your household each week. If you have the option of purchasing aluminium or glass over plastic, always choose aluminium or glass. And always remember to take your own sustainable shopping bags to the supermarket.


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Do you plan to “Support local/Buy Local” wherever possible during the Covid-19 recovery period, even if it means paying somewhat more for items you could have purchased online from outside the wider Mercury Bay area?

The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.