The popular Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme that New Zealand supermarkets participated in was put on hold in December, but some supermarkets still appear to be receiving drop-offs from the public.
The scheme was halted after overseas processors said they would no longer accept New Zealand’s plastic waste, and stockpiles had built up to 400 tonnes in people’s homes.
The Mt Eden branch of Countdown in Auckland was still receiving the occasional drop-off on Saturday evening.
Kiri Hannifin, quality safety and sustainability manager at Countdown, said they had the odd customer still bringing in plastic waste, but there was “no issue of note”.
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Duty manager at the Mt Eden Countdown Hemant Kumar, said the supermarket doesn’t get too many plastics drop-offs but a few customers still do bring a few bags in from time to time.
At Pak ‘n Save Kilbirnie in Wellington people still come with plastics to recycle, a staff member said, but they simply reiterate that the scheme has been suspended, and it doesn’t seem to be a persistent problem.
Checkout customer services manager Neelam Patel at Pak’nSave in Silverdale, Auckland, said that she had two bags dropped off last week but half an hour later they were gone, as the customer probably figured out the scheme was no longer active.
“The first two weeks after the programme was suspended we were still collecting it and sending it away,” but today its not a big issue. However, “a few people do whinge,” Patel said.
Of bigger concern is getting the scheme up and running again, Hannifin said.
Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme chairman Malcolm Everts said in December global recycling had changed significantly and overseas markets for plastic were “drying up”.
The scheme is due to resume in April in a limited number of regions, and is using the hiatus to build new capacity, while also looking for new processing solutions.
Hannifin said customers had been really disappointed with the scheme’s suspension, and said it was a “real worry”.
“We really, really want a resolution soon. We did everything we could last year to save it,” she said.
“We’re still collecting our $1 bags and recycling them. The issue is that all big business could buy back the plastics to help stimulate the market. Business has to step up.”
Hannifin said that Countdown was also looking to remove plastics where they can in their packaging.
The scheme’s website says it is working with Future Post, a Kiwi company that turns soft plastic waste combined with High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) milk bottle plastic into fence posts that are tougher and more durable than wooden posts.
Another company the scheme is working with is Levin-based Second Life Plastics, which take soft plastic waste and turns it into a range of products for industrial use such as ducting, cable covers, plastic sheets and anti-fatigue mats.
Social media chat reveals the public are keen to find creative solutions to the plastic waste issue. A comment on Facebook read:
“Now that supermarkets aren’t taking soft plastics I thought I’d suggest making eco bricks. It’s actually more satisfying too.”
Another, even more creative suggestion posted read:
“How about period underwear? I’ve started a new business making them.”
The Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme didn’t respond in time for publication.