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Towards plastic free July

This page contains information about reducing plastic waste.
Updated: 9/07/2018 2:46 p.m.

A raft of plastic rubbish about six times the size of New Zealand is floating between Hawaii and California. 

“Every piece of plastic in that raft was made by us, humans, used by us and discarded by us,” said Council’s Field Officer Drainage and Waste, Grant Alsop. 

“I wonder how many of the plastic bags or items in that raft were once used by someone who thought, 'it’s just one small thing, it won’t make much of a difference,' before discarding it. 

“It’s thousands of those thoughts and actions that have made this problem so big in such a tiny timeframe (if you look at world history). Lots of individual tiny thoughts and tiny actions.  

“If those thoughts become, 'what I do with every little bit of plastic matters,' and actions reflect that, the change could be just as great. 

“The Ocean Cleanup website says there will be more plastic than fish in the world's oceans by 2050. There are lots of pictures on TV and online showing plastic bags, broken pieces of plastic objects, plastic straws, cigarette butts, plastic knives, forks, spoons, tooth brushes and microbeads killing sea life that gets tangled in them or swallows them. 

“That’s why Council is supporting Plastic Free July, a global movement in its seventh year,” said Mr Alsop.  

Executive Director and Founder of the Plastic Free July Foundation, Rebecca Prince Ruiz said this July the foundation aimed to empower all New Zealanders to choose to refuse plastic and collectively contribute by making small changes to their day-to-day actions to make a big difference.

“Although the size of the plastic waste problem is frightening, the numbers tell us that small actions can make big impacts. Last year, participating households of our campaign reduced their landfill waste rates by nearly 10%.

 “Making a difference is as simple as swapping out your usual disposable coffee cup with an eco-friendly version, bringing your own re-useable bags to get groceries, or even switching to soap instead of using bottled wash products. The campaign is a great time to get creative with how you can reduce your single-use plastic usage and share ideas with others,” Rebecca said.

To participate in the Plastic Free July campaign this year, New Zealanders can sign-up to the challenge on the website and access resources to help make environmentally friendly lifestyle choices. 

The call to action is simple. Choose to refuse single use plastic this July.

Follow @plasticfreejuly and pledge your commitment, you won't be alone. You’ll be joining over two million people from 150 countries.

What is happening to our recyclables?

The call is out across the world to reduce plastic waste and people are asking what happens to the glass, cardboard, plastic, tin and other recyclables that go into Council recycling bins.

Council’s solid waste engineer David Lindsay, the man behind Council’s recycling programme, has been working on a project that will change the way we recycle in our District and has provided an outline of what happens.

“We were looking at all our options and preparing for some big changes involving wheelie bins and crates for glass later in the year when China decided to stop taking the world’s plastic, so we are having a bit of a re-think,” he said.

Mr Lindsay said this is what happens to the recycling that is collected now:

At the kerb

  • Recycling is sorted by hand by our team at the kerb.
  • Recyclable plastic is collected, glass bottles and jars are sorted into separate colours and collected, tins are collected.
  • These are all taken away to be sorted at a materials recovery centre.
  • Paper and cardboard are collected by a separate crew.

At the centre

  • Plastic bottles and metal cans are sorted at an automated facility.
  • Metal items are removed using magnets or an eddy current, optical scanners identify different types of plastic.

Where does the recycling go?

Once your recycling is sorted, it’s sold to make new products in New Zealand as well as overseas.


Glass is recycled into new bottles and jars in Auckland.


Paper and cardboard can be made into newsprint, writing paper, tissue, corrugated cardboard, egg cartons and fruit trays. This is done in New Zealand as well as Asia.


Plastic is sent to Australia and Southeast Asia to be made into just about anything plastic can be made in to. Buckets, polyester fibre and wheelie bins are just some of the new forms our plastic takes.


Aluminium is used to make new aerosol and drink cans, steel is made into food cans, wire and building materials in New Zealand and Asia.

Why is it sent overseas?

  • New Zealand has a relatively small population, which means we don’t generate a lot of recyclable material so there’s not as much demand for recycling processing facilities in this country.
  • Until recently it has been more efficient to send recyclables to countries that have larger populations and better systems for recycling.
  • Now that is changing and we are looking at new ways to manage waste better.

Learning to reduce waste

Plastic free July

Across the world people are starting to react against the use of plastic. One initiative is the Plastic Free July.




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