A large number of plastic bottles that could be recycled are being sent to New Zealand landfills.
A new report released today by WasteMINZ identified 39 per cent of household plastic bottles and containers were being sent to landfills, despite their potential to be recycled.
As to why this is happening, the report highlighted five reasons - one of which was people getting confused by different plastics and their ability to be recycled.
The report found that while some products have a recycling symbol and others a plastic identification code, an estimated 181 million containers have no information at all to indicate whether they are recyclable or not.
Another reason has been put down to the creation of plastics, and the differing varieties. While there are viable markets both onshore and overseas for plastics 1, 2 and 5 - which make up around 87 per cent of all household grocery packaging - global commodity markets for plastics 3, 4, 6 and 7 are limited.
All councils in New Zealand accept plastic 1, and all except the Chatham Islands accept plastic 2.
But, out of 67 councils, only 36 accept plastics 6 and 7, 42 accept plastics 3 and 4, and 44 accept plastics 5.
New Zealanders could also just be putting their recyclable items in the wrong bin.
The report showed 14 per cent of milk bottles and dairy containers made from plastic 2 are put in householders’ rubbish bins.
This means that, every year, an estimated 97 million bottles that could potentially be recycled everywhere in the country go straight to landfill.
To increase the quantity and quality of plastic recycling, the report has identified a number of actions for manufacturers, councils and Kiwis.
At a minimum, the report states manufacturers should include a visible plastic identification code on all plastic packaging.
Meanwhile, WasteMINZ has begun a programme of work with recyclers and councils to agree on standardising what recyclable materials are collected nationally from the kerbside.
Councils who don’t currently accept plastic 5 are encouraged to investigate how plastic 5 could be separated out at their recycling facility, as it can be recycled onshore.
It also encourages Kiwis to reduce their overall plastic consumption and choose not to buy items packaged in plastics such as biscuit and cracker trays, tomato sauce bottles and soft plastics.
Other findings from The Truth about Plastic Recycling in Aotearoa New Zealand 2020 report show Kiwi households are throwing out 1.76 billion plastic containers per year.
The report also found that the most common item being disposed of to either recycling or rubbish bins is the single-use drink bottle - 188 per household per year.