Plastic shopping bags will now be recyclable under $1.2 million government project - July 2015

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced that the government is partnering with the retail sector and packaging industry to allow recycling of thousands of tonnes of plastics like shopping bags that currently cannot be recycled.


"The problem is that soft plastics like shopping bags, bread bags, frozen food bags and food wrap are not accepted by kerbside recycling services and cannot currently be recycled in New Zealand. We are investing in a new drop-off recycling service at stores and new recycling infrastructure that will enable soft plastics to be re-used," Smith said

The initiative will be funded through a $700,000 grant to the Packaging Forum and a $510,000 grant to Astron Plastics Group from the Government's Waste Minimisation Fund.

The Packaging Forum grant will part fund a trial of the new recycling service at The Warehouse, Pak 'n' Save, New World and Countdown stores across Auckland.

A new dry-cleaning facility in Auckland will have the capacity to recycle 2000 tonnes of soft plastics and will reduce the requirement to import new "plastic polymers," Smith said.

"This approach has proved successful in Australia through the Coles Group and saved thousands of tonnes of plastic going to landfill. The longer-term objective of this initiative would be for 70 per cent of New Zealanders to have access to a drop-off facility for soft plastics within 20 kilometres of their home."

"This is a more sensible approach than a ban or a compulsory levy on just plastic shopping bags. These bags make up only 0.2 per cent of waste going to landfill, and only 10 per cent of plastic waste. Nor can a ban or a compulsory levy be justified when plastic shopping bags only make up 1.5 per cent of the litter items in nationwide litter surveys," Smith said.

New Zealanders use over 1.6 billion plastic bags in the home every year, according to Lyn Mayes, manager of the Public Place Recycling Scheme which will manage the project. 

"Soft plastic bags are not currently collected for recycling by councils because they can contaminate the recycling process. The new project will take all soft plastic bags including bread bags, frozen food bags, toilet paper packaging, confectionery and biscuit wrap, chip bags, pasta and rice bags, courier envelopes, shopping bags, sanitary hygiene packaging- basically anything made of plastic which can be scrunched into a ball

"Customers can bring their used soft plastics back to store and put them in the recycling bin. This will be collected from store by REDcycle who also run the programme in Australia. Initially the materials will be sent back to Australia where they are made into park benches and fitness circuits for playgrounds until there are facilities in New Zealand such as those planned at Astron Plastics that can process these products."

Andrew Hewett, Chair of The Public Place Recycling Scheme said: "This is a voluntary, industry-led initiative and a true product stewardship model where everyone involved in the life cycle of a product – manufacturers, distributors and consumers – choose to share responsibility for the best end-of-life outcome.".

Smith said: "We need to do better as a country in how we manage plastics but we need to do so in ways that make environmental sense, are cost effective and practical."

Recycling "a more sensible approach than a ban or a compulsory levy on just plastic shopping bags:" Nick Smith