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Call for recycling refund scheme for soft plastics

Recycling bins specifically for soft plastic waste is making a comeback this week at some Auckland supermarkets, but one organisation is calling for a refund scheme to encourage Kiwis to recycle.

The Soft Plastics Recycling scheme, started by the Packaging Forum, was suspended last year as one of the consequences of China’s ban on taking overseas waste, leaving round 400 tonnes of plastic sitting in storage containers around the country.

Zero Waste Network chair Marty Hoffart today told TVNZ1's Breakfast soft plastics recycling "is in a crunch like everyone else".

"When China closed the doors, they were the recycler for 50 per cent of the world's recycling, so people are scrambling right now to find markets and the soft plastics scheme is no different."

Mr Hoffart said while he is uncertain over where the recycled soft plastics will go, the scheme "wouldn't have started up again if they didn’t have markets for those materials."

However, he said the Government needs "to build the recycling cost into the products that we buy and sell."

"I mean, that's why we are one of the highest dumpers of electronic waste in the world … and it's the same with soft plastics.

"In any plastics or packaging, they have very low value and the less you bill the cost of the transport and getting them to market, into the purchase price for the product, we end up dumping."

Mr Hoffart said the cost of the proposed scheme would not be taken on by public money, but through product stewardship, in which "the cost is built into the price of the product between the producer and the consumer." 

He added that roughly half of the problem is recyclable plastic bottles going into landfills, which would be solved if people were incentivised to recycle them through product stewardship and a 10 cent premium attached to them.

Mr Hoffart said that if products cannot be reused, recycled or composted, we "simply shouldn't be making it".

"That should apply to all the products and packaging that we make in society. If we can't do one of those three things to it, why do we continue to allow it to be made in this country?"

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Zero Waste Network chair Marty Hoffart backed such an idea on TVNZ1’s Breakfast. Source: Breakfast