The Nelson City Council is preparing to send a letter to local retailers asking them to consider the way they package their goods as part of a push to get Nelsonians to better recycle.
The move comes after the council decided to reduce its recycling to include only glass, fibre, steel, aluminium, and plastics numbered 1, 2 and 5 on a fortnightly basis until a viable long-term, sustainable recycling option was secured for the plastics that can no longer be recycled.
Come the middle of the year, these unrecyclable plastics would instead be sent to landfill.
“We took a view that unless that we can be sure that the products we are sending off shore are truly being recycled, we are not going to send them there,” says councillor Brian McGurk, who chairs the infrastructure committee.
“The days of sending stuff over the horizon are over. It’s untenable.”
Of about 240,000 tonnes of recycling collected in Nelson, an average of nearly 150,000 tonnes was plastic types 1 and 2, figures from the council show.
Brian says that since council introduced yellow recycling wheelie bins, the volume of material had gone up 40 per cent.
However, he admitted that there needed to be a lot more education about what could and what couldn’t be recycled, including how products needed to be rinsed or sometimes washed before putting them in the recycling bin.
He says the letter will be telling retailers about the intent of their policy and how council hoped they would work to limit the amount of non-recyclable products they store.
“People are wanting to do the right thing.”
However, a Nelson Weekly poll on Facebook, which asked if people would change what they bought because of the council policy, was less than encouraging.
Of the over 700 votes, about 70 per cent of respondents said they would not change their habits.
“Food is expensive enough as it is,” said Rachel Thompson. “But we are supposed to change what we can afford to buy because the packaging isn’t the right number? Get real.”
Steph Anderson said she would try to but “if the food comes in the wrong packaging, I’m still probably going to buy it. If there is two of the same items in
different packaging, I will take the recyclable one.”
Karen Whiting said it was time for manufacturers and supermarkets to step up. “Maybe if we started returning all this packaging that’s non recyclable to them, they’d soon be looking for alternatives.”
Which is the message from Nelson Environment Centre manager Anton Drazevic.
He says one of the biggest challenges with recycling is contaminated material.
“Sorting at source is the most effective way of getting cleaner material and that it has a higher likelihood of being recycled.”
He says it was positive that the council was moving in this direction and being transparent about things that would end up in landfill.
“We all put things in the recycling bin with the hope that it will be recycled. But that is just ‘wishcycling’.”
Anton says people need to think about whether they need to buy a certain product and, if they do, asking whether they could leave the packaging at the retailer.
“The more pressure that is on retailers the more pressure there is that they will change their packaging for consumer desire.”
He says that New Zealand has clean air, waterways and land, relative to the rest of the world. “But we shouldn’t take that for granted.”