Wheeling Away the City's Recycling

6 May 2010

Wellington City Council is changing the way residents recycle by introducing wheelie bins for recycling paper, metals and plastic.

The move to wheelie bins is expected to increase the amount the city recycles by 40 percent, from 12,300 tonnes per year to 18,000 tonnes, as well as reducing the amount of litter and broken glass on the streets.

Under the new recycling system:

  • households will receive a free 140-litre wheelie bin for recycling plastic, paper, cardboard and cans
  • glass will be recycled using the existing 45-litre green bins
  • households where the terrain isn't suitable for wheelie bins will be offered 40x90 litre see-through bags to recycle their plastic, paper and cans. These bags can be recycled.
  • wheelie bins with plastic, cans and paper will be collected on alternate weeks to glass collection
  • all recycling must be in the correct bins/bags or it won't be collected
  • all recycling vehicles will be purpose built and new with low entry and left-hand drive
  • most of our recycling will be processed in New Zealand.

A trial of the wheelie bins will begin in some areas of the city in August before being rolled out across the city in October. Glass will be collected on alternate weeks to the wheelie bins.

It is estimated that 12,000 of the city's 57,000 households will be unable to use the wheelie bins because of terrain and access issues. They will be given a see-through recyclable bag for their plastics, paper and metals.

The Council's Environment Portfolio Leader, Councillor Celia Wade-Brown, says the change has been driven by health and safety concerns and a need to recycle more.

"The Council has reviewed the health and safety record of the present collection system and found it poses injury risks to workers while a recent study for Waste Management Institute New Zealand shows manual methods of collecting recycling are more likely to cause injury than automated bin collections.

"Under this new system manual handling of bins will drop by 50 percent and glass collection vehicles will mean the glass recycling bins won't need to be lifted above waist height. Vehicles will be left-hand drive, which means drivers don't have to step out into traffic, low entry to reduce the impact on joints, and low emission.

"We expect about a 40 percent increase in recycling because of the bigger bin, with less material being blown away in the wind because the wheelie bins have lids and are short and wide at the bottom for wind stability."

The Council's CitiOperations Manager, Mike Mendonca, says the Council is negotiating with a preferred supplier but the new system is expected to cost just over $3 million a year. "It will be funded from the Council's other waste activities, including rubbish bag sales, landfill fees and the waste levy.

Another benefit of the new system is that almost all of the city's recyclables will be processed in New Zealand. "At present very little of our recycling is processed here. This is because local machines cannot handle glass contamination, which is the result of glass being mixed in with other recycling. Separating glass under the new system means it can be processed in New Zealand."

Auckland, Manukau, Christchurch, Timaru and North Shore already use wheelie bins for recycling as do many other countries, including most of Australia. A recent survey of North Shore residents found that 87 percent of them are happy with the wheelie bin system.

A survey of Wellington City residents from the Council's Long Term Council Community Plan found that 85 percent were happy with the Council's recycling system but said bigger bins were needed to combat issues with the wind.

A public education campaign will run as part of the wheelie bin roll-out, including information about what can be recycled.