Soft Plastic Recycling Comes to Aotearoa New Zealand

Here in Auckland we’re lucky to have a kerbside recycling system that accepts most types of packaging, but there is one conspicuous exclusion: soft plastic. Apparently plastic films and bags clog up the machines that sort our recycling, causing all kinds of chaos in the process.

Now I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that avoiding single-use packaging in the first place is more important than recycling it after the fact. However, there are some items I still struggle to find plastic-free, and I know many households still consider it normal to bring home a stack of single-use plastic bags from the grocery store each week. What’s more, I recently unearthed a great pile of soft plastic while clearing out some old boxes, and I’m loath to send it all to landfill.

So, with all that in mind, I was delighted to discover a new recycling initiative was recently launched to provide soft-plastic collection bins at supermarkets and The Warehouse stores. The bins will take pretty much any type of soft plastic you can think of, and if they’re well used they should make a big dent in the amount of waste going to landfill. The initiative is being trialled first in Auckland before being rolled out to the rest of the country over the next few years, so keep an eye out for them at your local stores.

While the soft plastic collected won’t be recycled into new plastic bags — it’ll be used to make park benches and other outdoor furniture and signs — providing any sort of recycling is undoubtedly better than sending the whole lot off to a rubbish dump.

Check out the following links if you want to find out more:

  1. Soft Plastic Packaging Recycling
  2. Press Release: Industry, Community and Government partnerships to recycle soft plastic bags gain momentum
  3. Plastic shopping bags to finally be recyclable in new project
  4. From metal to plastic: recycling soft plastic in NZ

6 thoughts on “Soft Plastic Recycling Comes to Aotearoa New Zealand

    • It’s great that you’ve seen the collection bins! I need to keep an eye out at my own local stores.

      A ban on plastic bags would be great too, but Nick Smith actually made a really good point in the Stuff article: “plastic shopping bags… make up only 0.2 per cent of waste going to landfill, and only 10 per cent of plastic waste.” So until we’ve figured out how to eliminate all plastic packaging, banning plastic bags would have a small impact compared to collecting & recycling all the plastic currently going to landfill.

      • Yeah, I used to think I was doing pretty well by using my own bags for produce and groceries, but when I started plastic free July this year I was blown away by how much plastic I was still buying. But it makes perfect sense when you think about it – almost everything in the supermarket except for (some) produce comes in plastic!

  1. Our village store (I’m in the U.K.) reuses plastic grocery bags that people bring in, which saves them buying any. I reuse smaller plastic bags in the kitchen. But that still leaves all kinds of other soft plastic trash. It does seem endless sometimes.

    • That’s a great initiative from your local store! I’ve managed to find reusable alternatives for a lot of plastic bags but as you say there’s still so much left.

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