News | 14 October 2022

Friday Five: Tips for recycling in Wellington

While recycling may initially seem daunting, when we get it right it’s an easy way to reduce our waste and negative environmental impact. Our Waste Minimisation Team have shared five things you may not know about recycling in Wellington.

Two people standing next to the battery recycling bin at the Tip Shop.

1. Batteries aren’t recyclable in your kerbside bin or bag 

They also can’t go into your rubbish because they can cause fires in the landfill and contain harmful chemicals, which can leach into soil and waterways. Instead, you can drop them off for free at one of our seven city-wide locations:

  • Island Bay Community Centre 
  • Karori Library
  • Kilbirnie Library 
  • Newlands Community Centre
  • Tawa Community Centre
  • Te Awe Library (CBD)
  • Tip Shop at the Southern Landfill

Large batteries and any leaking or damaged batteries should be taken to the Southern Landfill Transfer Station for secure disposal. Find out more on battery recycling.

2. Wellington’s recycling is hand sorted 

While we do have sorting machinery, our city’s recycling is also hand sorted by the team at Oji Fibre solutions. Please be mindful that other people will handle whatever you put in your recycling bag.

Many people believe all recycling is sent overseas or all sent to landfill. This is a misconception. If the recyclables are clean, they will be sorted, baled and sold with the majority of our recyclables staying in NZ for processing. Get more information on where your recycling goes.

Recycling bag filled with items.

3. If in doubt, throw it out (but check our directory first)

Even though recycling is hand sorted, people often think that putting incorrect items in recycling will be fine because it will be sorted out. But by including non-recyclable items, we make the fast-paced sorting job more difficult, hazardous, and increase the chance of contamination in the bales at the end.

If an unwashed recyclable item or something like a dirty nappy is put into your kerbside bag, it can contaminate other recyclables in the truck or at the facility (which then need to be landfilled) – not recycling properly can thwart the efforts of people who do.

To stop the chances of putting the wrong thing in, you can use our handy search tool to find out what is the right way to dispose of an item. 

Four keep cups and a reusabowl.

4. You can’t recycle takeaway coffee cups

A common misconception is that takeaway coffee cups are simply made of paper and are therefore recyclable. This is incorrect. Coffee cups are not recyclable as they are made of multiple layers of different materials. They are lined with plastic so that they can contain liquid without disintegrating.

Coffee cups and other food service ware and packaging are often made with degradable, biodegradable, or compostable plastic and labelled as such. This does not mean they are recyclable. Compostable and recyclable are vastly different. If you put something compostable in your recycling it does not get separated out and composted – it gets sent to landfill. 

Therefore, we encourage reuse instead!

Check out our story on how to avoid packaging at eateries.

5. Not all plastics are the same

Plastic can come in lots of different forms – there are 7 grades, or different types, of plastic. Sadly, not all plastic items can go into your kerbside recycling. 

Our recycling system is designed for grocery/food packaging items only. Here in Wellington, you can recycle unsquashed rigid plastics with the recycling symbol and numbers 1, 2 or 5. These certain types of plastic include most plastic drink bottles, food containers and cleaning product containers.

We can’t recycle plastics with no number or a number 3, 4, 6 or 7 (these grades of plastics are difficult to recycle and there is a little to no market for them to be made into other things). Things like coat hangers, bubble wrap, and toys are all technically made of plastic but are not the type of plastics that are recyclable in our kerbside recycling system. Just because something is plastic does not necessarily mean its recyclable.

Find out more on how to prepare your recycling for collection.

Watch out each Friday for a fun list of five great activities to do, places to explore, or things to discover in our awesome city.