Mid-Canterbury has been buffered from the effects of a recycling crisis by innovations in the market and the effectiveness of its waste minimisation contracts.
A Chinese ban on foreign waste kicked in on January 1, effectively turning away $21 million of waste from New Zealand, and recyclables such as plastic and unsorted waste paper now have to go somewhere else.
EnviroWaste educator Sheryl Stivens says there are other markets overseas besides China, so products from the district and other areas would continue to go to those, as well as to a growing number of onshore markets.
For instance, Flight Plastics recycled PET in the North Island, and there was a recycler of milk and other plastic bottles in Christchurch.
Another modern initiative was The Warehouse, New World and Countdown in Mid Canterbury taking soft plastics such as bubble wrap and supermarket, bread bag and post bags and exporting them to Melbourne where they were made into plastic wood for park benches.
“So there are new things coming on line all the time in an innovative country, we are innovative,” she says.
“China is one destination but there are other destinations and hopefully we will end up with more and more products able to be recycled here in New Zealand.”
News of the Chinese ban last year sent some New Zealand regions and countries around the world scrambling as it threatened to be a tipping point sending recyclables to landfill.
Stivens says Canterbury was in the position of having a modern well-operated landfill in Kate Valley, which offered economies of scale to the councils which invested in it as a joint venture including the Ashburton District Council.
“Not all areas in New Zealand are doing that, you need to work collectively in these areas now,” Stivens said.
Kate Valley was not cheap to run, and the way waste contracts were set up meant it would always be more expensive to send recyclables to landfill than it would be to recycle them.
Stivens says she saw the move from China as a positive step towards waste reduction measures on a global scale.
China did not want to take poor quality recycling or dirty recycling.
“China wants to improve the quality and I think we all have a part to play in our houses and businesses."
- Ashburton Guardian