Whangarei’s main rubbish sorting centre, Re:Sort at Kioreroa Road, has been collecting low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic for recycling for some time.
LDPE is a particular sort of plastic film, usually found wrapped around pallets of goods to keep them intact, safe, dry and clean during transport.
Not all soft plastics are of the LDPE sort and some cannot be recycled. If the wrong plastic gets into the soft plastic recycling stream it can contaminate the whole batch and prevent it from being recycled. If that happens it is sent to landfill. This is why it is so important to sort recycling – the better the sorting, the better the chances that material will be recycled.
Shrink and Pallet wrap can be recycled. (Linear & low-density polyethylene (LDPE & LLDPE)).
Plastic shopping bags are generally not LDPE and cannot be recycled.
If you would like to recycle soft LDPE plastic from your home, take them along to the collections site at Re:Sort.
Plastic bags are bad for the environment, aren’t they? So why are Council’s official rubbish bags plastic?
Council Solid Waste Engineer David Lindsay, explains the complicated reason for this seemingly conflicting process.
“Loose plastic materials flooding uncontrolled into the environment, into the sea and other ecosystems is a huge problem, because when they get there they fail to break down, can trap, injure, clog and poison animals.
“If the kerbside collection bags were not collected they would break open, contents would scatter around, wash down drains into streams and the sea and cause a major problem.
“The difference is that we collect them and then contain them and that helps to reduce rubbish getting into the environment in that out of control, long-lasting and dangerous way.
“After they are collected by our contractors the rubbish bags are taken to a landfill at Puwera, near Portland, where they are put into a landfill that has drainage, filtration, treatment and other systems around it, to protect the environment. The bags are covered by dirt and their contents are left to decay and compact, even though the bags themselves don’t. We also have systems to manage the methane gas the decay produces.
“This is not a perfect system because we all generate waste every day, both at home and in businesses. We may contain and manage it, but it never disappears.
“Using paper rubbish sacks is not a simple or straight forward option either because they have higher ecological costs over their life time,” he said.
“Producing paper bags consumes energy, chemicals, large quantities of water, they are heavy and use more energy to move, and when they get into the ground at a landfill, they break down, creating methane which plastic bags do not.
“Plastic production creates less greenhouse gas and uses less water and chemicals than paper, but when it gets into the environment it can last for many generations and cause enormous damage.
For now, Council considers the best option is to have a good kerbside rubbish collection that contains and manages rubbish, alongside a recycling service, and provides a smaller -sized bag ($1.80) which many people opt to use.
“To really go green and save money too, we suggest committing to using the Council’s half size bags or not using a bag every week.“