David Stephenson, who leads the Nelson Tasman Joint Waste Minimisation plan with plastic being stockpiled at the Resource Recovery Station on Fittal St. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Rethink on recycling proposed

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Nelson needs to think seriously about whether it can continue to pay increasing costs for a recycling scheme with no guarantee that it will actually minimise the region’s waste, a veteran councillor says.

Ian Barker’s comments come after Nelson City Council learned that charges at the York Valley landfill are proposed to increase by $141 a tonne to $163 a tonne.

He says these costs will then be passed onto Nelsonians – either via rates or by increased prices for waste services.

“How long can we afford to collect recycling while being oblivious to the fact that it’s going to landfill,” Ian told the Nelson Weekly.

Nelson, along with the rest of the country, is stockpiling recycling while international markets have shut down.

Hutt City Council, Gisborne, Horowhenua and Far North District Councils are among others that have recently stopped recycling type 3-7 plastics. These include biscuit trays, yoghurt containers, takeaway containers and other soft plastics.

Ian told the council meeting last week that at some stage we have to sit down and make a decision about whether we’re going to continue this “uneconomic activity”.

“It’s costing us a lot of money – $2.4 million dollars – to carry this out to just stockpile material that cannot be recycled. We used to make money out of it. We’re not. How long do we carry on losing money? This council needs to make a decision.”

However, some locals are wanting to take matters into their own hands by exploring the possibility of creating their own recycling machine.

The group of families have looked at different options and think there is scope to build a recycling processor off available plans online.

Lisa Allan, who organised the group, says it came out of a conversation where everyone was very “doom and gloom” about the state of recycling.

“I just felt really inspired that it’s up to us to take responsibility for our own rubbish.”

The latest regional waste assessment showed that each year about 62,000 tonnes of waste is sent to landfill in the Nelson Tasman region.

While the amount going to landfill has decreased very slightly, in that same time recycling has increased – meaning we are throwing away just as much.

Lisa found a website, Precious Plastics, that has free models and designs to build a recycling machine that grinds down plastic into particles that can then be melted down and used in moulds for other products.

She started looking around for potential grants available through council to develop the idea but did not get far. However, Lisa is not deterred and instead is looking for like-minded people who might share her vision.

“What’s happening with our recycling it’s not necessarily a problem, it’s an opportunity.

“Why can’t Nelson lead the way – why can’t we do something different and show people what can be done?”