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  • Writer's pictureMichal Garvey

Why we’re celebrating Aotearoa’s Recycling Changes

If you haven’t heard, from 1 February 2024 Aotearoa has implemented national standards for our recycling throughout the country. Back in 2022, we encouraged our followers to provide feedback to the Ministry for the Environment’s Transforming Recycling consultation. These changes are the results of that consultation and years of work behind the scenes. 

While no changes are going to be everyone’s idea of perfect, we’re celebrating these changes as they simplify our recycling making it easier for everyone to understand. The long-term aim is to deliver better-quality recycled materials throughout the country. 

So what are the changes?

Items that can be recycled

glass bottles and jars, paper and cardboard, plastic bottles, trays and containers (grades 1, 2, and 5), and aluminium and steel tins and cans.

Image from Ministry for the Environment

Items that can’t be recycled

Aerosol cans, juice or milk cartons from Tetra Pak, aluminium foil trays, plastics graded 3, 4, , 6 or 7 and bottle caps must now be removed from recyclable bottles.

For some of us, it will mean there are things we used to recycle in kerbside collections that will no longer be recyclable and for others there will be extra items you can now add to your bins.

Recycling fewer items might sound like a bad thing, but according to a 2022 webinar by the Ministry for the Environment, before now we have not had one single item that was accepted by every council across the country. This comment stood out to me so vividly as it feels crazy, that in a country as small as New Zealand there was so much regional difference in our recycling. 

With rules previously changing between Councils, it would cause confusion for people moving around the country. Think of moving cities and taking old habits with you or a weekend away in a small town with limited recycling facilities. The focus is now on doing less, but doing it better. 

Clear rules will also minimise wish-cycling. Have you ever put that in the bin and thought “I hope that’s recyclable” or “I think that’s recyclable.” Well, chances are if you weren’t sure or didn’t check it likely wasn’t, hence the term wish-cycling. Throwing something in the recycling bin in the “wish” or “hope” that it can be recycled. 

Remember to make sure what you’re putting in the recycling bin is clean. Items still covered in food or other materials are likely to contaminate not only your bin but others too meaning the whole lot is likely to have to be landfilled. 

Of course, another very exciting part of this policy is the rollout of national food scrap collections from our homes. A huge win if you ask us. While most of my scraps go to my worms, it’s so good to have another option for the things they don’t like.  It’s been so good to see so many people take to this around Tāmaki Makaurau over the last 6 months. If you don’t have this yet, it’ll be coming by 2027 or 2030 at the latest. Remember that keeping food scraps out of landfills and in circular systems is key to tackling the climate crisis.

These changes play a huge part in the Government’s goal to half waste to landfill by 2030. Something we can’t help but get behind!

For more on the changes visit Ministry for the Environment or your local Council’s website. 

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