A sign at on a Nelson Countdown saying how soft plastic recycling has stopped. Photo: Kate Russell

Nelson’s soft plastic recycling in the rubbish

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Nelsonians have been left with sackfuls of soft-plastics with nowhere to go – except the landfill.

The Love NZ Soft Plastic Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme was temporarily suspended on 31 December, with organisers citing over-supply and the need for an upgraded facility.

The recycling bins at all Nelson supermarkets have gone, but there are plans to resume a sustainable service in April.

The recycling bins were introduced in 2017 so shoppers could take back their used soft plastic, such as bread and frozen food bags, to supermarkets to be recycled.

The material being put in the bins in supermarkets had been going to a company in Australia, to be turned into things like park benches, bollards and playground equipment.

But organisers say they are collecting more soft plastic than they can currently process and a suspension to the service will give them time to work with existing processing partners to build capacity, as well as find new processing solutions.

Nelson Environment Centre manager Anton Drazevic says it a shame for Nelson, as many people had got into good habits of recycling their soft plastics.

He discourages people from ‘stock-piling’ for fears of overwhelming the service if it resumes.

“There is no easy answer – I wish I had all the answers for this.”

Anton says, while it has been an amazing service to the community, there has been a silver lining to it stopping.

“I loved the fact that it was so popular here, but it’s made people aware of how much waste they are generating. I think most people that did it were surprised by how much they accumulated.”

Countdown Trafalgar Park manager David Smale says they were emptying their bin two or three times a day but, so far, customers have been understanding of the changes.
Anton says there are several things people can do to reduce the amount of soft plastic they accumulate – including leaving their plastic packaging at the retailer.

“When you buy a product, you can ask the retailer, ‘can I leave the packaging here?’ We need to work with retailers to get more products with less plastic.”

He says people can also go to bulk bin shops where they can bring their own containers.

“Now we know we produce so much, we need to work on reducing it.”