No change to recycling collections at Level 3 for Wellington City Council

23 April 2020

Wellington City Council’s kerbside recycling collection will remain on hold when the country moves into the new Alert Level 3 phase proposed for next week by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Image of the new recyclable recycling bag

Frequently asked questions about the status of recycling collections and the Southern Landfill at Alert Level 3 (65KB PDF)

With strict guidelines still in place, the safety of staff and the public is still a priority while there is any risk of contamination, says Mayor Andy Foster.

“We’re still in the planning stages following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday, but we do know that Level 3 is unlikely to see many changes in our services – and that includes kerbside recycling collections.

“Usually our message would be to recycle, but Coronavirus has turned our world upside down, and we need to adapt to the safety measures being recommended – for the protection of our people and the country.”

Wellington City’s kerbside recycling collection is carried out by a contractor, and the sorting of the items is conducted under a separate contract.

Going into the Alert Level 4 lockdown neither contractor wanted to put its staff at risk, and collections ceased and the facility where recycling was sorted shut down its operation as a result, says Waste Operations Manager, Emily Taylor-Hall.

“The main reason kerbside recycling was postponed was that workers at the sorting facility wouldn’t have been able to keep the two metre rule of physical distancing. There remain questions around how long the virus lasts on surfaces like cardboard and plastic, and while the sorting plant is semi-automated, it still has a reasonable amount of hand sorting. These concerns still exist in Level 3, and as such we have been advised that the sorting plant will remain closed.

"We are working through how we can resume our normal waste services in Level 2 and Level 1.”

Despite initial calls to stockpile clean recycling where possible, advice from the Ministry for the Environment is that stockpiling is not recommended as it can be a health hazard, most people don’t have the capacity to store recycling long term, and once the alert levels reduce, the recycling system may be unable to cope with large amounts of stockpiled recyclables.

Waste Minimisation portfolio lead, Councillor Laurie Foon says: "I realise this news will be hard, especially for those that diligently recycle to reduce your waste.

“If you can, please use this time as a chance to keep trying to reduce the waste and recycling that you bring into your home. For example, choosing packaging that you can put in your home compost (like paper and cardboard), or that you can keep and reuse (glass), or simple packaging reduction strategies like buying in bulk.

“There is a lot of information available to help us reduce waste. As a society and a city we must continue to work toward being waste free."