Buller District Council

Media Release – Recycling situation in New Zealand affecting Buller District Council

13th November, 2020

As a country we have limited infrastructure to be able to process all the plastic and paper that some may consider recycling and most of this material goes to other countries offshore.  In 2018 China banned the importing of plastics causing a problem for New Zealand, as we are only able to recycle plastics 1, 2 and 5.

For paper and cardboard, the national recycling facilities across New Zealand are currently overwhelmed with material and this has meant that the excess recycling needs to be sent overseas for reprocessing resulting in freight costs.

In Buller during the months of July, August, September and October 15 tonnes of plastics and 54 tonnes of paper and cardboard was collected. Of the quantities of plastic only milk bottles and clear PET, like water bottles and drink bottles can be recycled, the rest of the mixed plastics have been stored without any place to go.  In the case of the papers and cardboards, these have also been waiting to be sent overseas for reprocessing. This current shortfall in the recycling market has cost council over $50,000 since July 2019 and in just the last four months the cost has been over $10,000.

It is for this reason that council and Smart Environmental would like all Buller residents in the Zone 1 kerbside recycling scheme to help minimise the impacts generated by the current inability to repurpose aspects of our recyclable materials.

The best way to improve our recycling system is following the three “R” model reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Reducing waste in the first place by saying no to unnecessary single – use items, making sound purchase decisions and avoiding materials that cannot be recycled. For example, refusing   plastic straws, avoiding takeaways containers or enjoy dine-in are good practices to reduce waste.

Reusing items that can be reused like spray bottles, using reusable takeaway containers, using a reusable bottle water, using containers for storing food, purchasing bulk food without unnecessary packaging or taking your own container to the supermarket.  It can include making your own biscuits and crackers, sauces, yogurt or cream cheese and making compost at home or workplace with the food waste scraps.

Recycling material properly by following the rules of our local recycling system, so that, all materials are of a clean and adequate quality allowing them to be recycled and re-used inside the country, rather than having to be sent overseas.

The following table shows more information about what can be recycled in our local system.

What can be recycled in our local system vs what cannot be recycled?







Plastics 1, 2 and 5 only


Clear plastics like soda and water bottles

Mayonnaise bottles

Meat trays

Milk containers

Yogurt pots

Syrup bottles


The key is to check numbers in the containers

Plastics 3, 4, 6 and 7

Coloured bottle plastics (even being #1) like Sprite soda

Margarine container (even being #5)

Shampoo containers (even being #5)

Detergents and bleaches containers

Biscuits and cracker trays (#3)

Tomato and mustard sauce containers (#4)

Lemon juice bottles (#4)

Yogurt bottles (#6)

Cheese containers like cottage or sour cream (#6)

Sliced meat trays and sushi trays (#7)

Soft Plastics (like bags and frozen vegetables bags)

Hard plastic packaging



Plastic cutlery and plates

Plastic toys


Small pieces like bread bag tags*

No lids, triggers or pumps.

Larger containers (more than 3 litres)

Paper and cardboard Printing paper




Tetra packs, like milk containers

Till receipts**

Shredded paper and small pieces of paper

Paper with plastic film

Paperboard like cereal boxes or biscuit packaging

Paper cups and plates, like coffee cups

Nappies and tissues

Dirty pizza boxes



Clean aluminium beverage


Steel food cans

Aerosol cans

Food and drink foil pouches

Glasses Glass food

Beverage bottles


Bottles with plastic sleeves


Source: Buller District Council – Waste Management team


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