How Your Recycling is Reused

3 June 2011

Ever wondered what happens to your recycling once you've wheeled out your bin or bagged up the week's cans, paper, and plastic bottles?

Place glass in the green crates only

Wheelie bins collection day in Karori

One of the reasons we've introduced the new recycling system is to increase the amount of recycling we can process here in New Zealand - as well as making it easier for people to recycle more.

Once the truck drivers from EnviroWaste have picked up your recycling from the kerbside, it's taken to Fullcircle's sorting and baling facility at Seaview. There, a team of up to 14 people sort the recyclables by hand. The recycled materials are then baled and transported to their next destination.

Wellington City Council's CitiOperations Manager Mike Mendonca says it's important everyone does their bit. "We can only process clean recycling that's free from household rubbish - which includes things like spray cans, tin foil and broken glass."

Paper and cardboard boxes go to Carter Holt Harvey's mills in Auckland and the Waikato, where they're processed for reuse.

Now the new recycling system is up and running, we're collecting all grades of plastic except polystyrene, bubble wrap and plastic wrap.

Our aim is to recycle as much plastic as we can here in New Zealand - and we'll keep looking for opportunities to do so. However, options for recycling some grades locally are limited.

Milk bottles are made from high-density polyethylene or HDPE (plastic grade 2). We sell grade 2 plastics to Budget Plastics in Palmerston North, where they're turned into plastic resin pellets and sold on to plastic manufacturers - including Sulo Talbot, the Auckland company that made Wellington's new wheelie bins.

"This is just one example of the materials we recycle being put to good use here in New Zealand," says Mike.

Soft drink and water bottles are made from polyethyl terephthalate or PET (plastic grade 1). We currently sell grade 1 plastics overseas, where they're made into synthetic carpets, clothing and other products. Other grades of plastic are also exported for reuse.

Wellington company Macaulay Metals buys the aluminium cans we collect, and then sells them to China for further processing. Steel and tin cans go to Pacific Steel in Auckland, where they're melted down and transformed into reinforcing rods for concrete.

Your wine bottles, jars and other glass are sorted at the kerbside into three colours - green, brown and clear - by EnviroWaste truck drivers. Once collected, glass is shipped direct to Auckland, where it's mechanically reprocessed into new bottles.

"It takes a lot of effort from everyone involved to transform our recycling for reuse," says Mike. "But every bottle or can we recycle is one less thing clogging up our landfills."

More information on the companies involved in processing your recycling:

Fullcircle - Carter Holt Harvey website

CHH Pulp and Paper website

O-I New Zealand website