Aucklanders poor recycling habits cost nearly $4m over 2 years

Kendall Hutt
Source: 1News

Some Aucklanders strange interpretations of what is recyclable has seen almost 37,000 tonnes of contaminated recycling sent to landfills over the last two years.

Rubbish in a landfill.

This bungled recycling has cost ratepayers a total of $3,810,086 - the waste levy has increased the costs of disposal to landfill by $10 per tonne, per year.

Broken down by year, 17,641 tonnes of contaminated recycling was sent to landfill in 2020, costing ratepayers $1,728,818.

The total amount of recycling collected in 2020 was 137,521 tonnes, meaning the total tonnes of contaminated recycling was 13%.

Last year, 19,271 tonnes of contaminated recycling was sent to landfill, costing ratepayers $2,081,268.

The total amount of recycling collected last year was 131,426 tonnes, meaning the total tonnes of contaminated recycling was 15%.

Auckland Council told 1News finding a cow carcass in a recycling bin a couple of years ago was "quite a surprise".

A butcher shop didn't understand the difference between the rubbish and recycling bins, resulting in a "surprising inspection" when the recycling bin turned out to be full of meat.

However, the most common items which wind up in recycling bins are soft plastics, clothes, bedding, curtains and stuffed toys.

Food waste, pots and pans have also made it in.

But the worst culprit is coffee cups, the council says.

"People also incorrectly think that if an item is made of a material like a metal or plastic, then it must be recyclable through the kerbside collection, but that's not the case," Parul Sood, the council’s general manager for Waste Solutions, said.

Although there were "no good excuses" when it came to Aucklanders poor recycling habits, Sood said it seemed Aucklanders get confused, forget or simply are lazy when it comes to putting the right items in the right bin.

The council has the Recycle Right game, an app called Binny and a website Make the Most of Waste to try and help Aucklanders with their recycling.

Sood said it would be a "win-win" for the council and Aucklanders if people were a bit more mindful of what they put in the recycling.

"At the end of the day Aucklanders are paying for it," Sood said.

"A bit of effort on people's parts would really help. We want to give them a real opportunity to do it right."

The council has had bin inspectors since July 2016, who red tag recycling bins which contain more than 10% of non-recyclable materials.

The council won't collect a bin if contamination isn't addressed and if someone is a repeat offender their bin is removed.

Bin inspectors red tagged around 11,000 recycling bins in the last financial year, Sood said.

This was despite the Covid-19 pandemic severely restricting the number of days they were able to work.

The council also saw an increase during the height of the pandemic in rubbish and recycling - 14% and 2% respectively.

During the first nationwide lockdown in 2020, the additional rubbish Aucklanders generated could have filled 66 double decker buses.