Soft plastics can now be recycled as part of a national programme to help save 4.3 million plastic bags from ending up at the landfill.
The Soft Plastics Recycling Programme was officially launched in Auckland this morning by Environment Minister Nick Smith and is a joint venture between the government, retail and packaging sectors.
Special bins have been installed at 70 New World, Pak 'n Save, Countdown and The Warehouse stores in Auckland, with plans to expand across other regions.
It’s the first programme to enable the recycling of soft plastics such as shopping bags, bread bags, frozen food bags and food wrap.
"The success of this venture depends on households developing a culture of collecting soft plastics and depositing them in the new drop-off facilities," says Dr Smith.
The programme will eventually spread to Hamilton, Wellington, Canterbury, Otago, Bay of Plenty and Manawatu during its three-year lifespan.
It aims to give 70 percent of Kiwis access to a recycle bin within a 20 kilometre drive.
Dr Smith says the recycling programme builds on the kerbside recycling of glass, hard plastics and paper, which has become standard among households.
Packaging Forum project manager Lyn Mayes says it is important people know the bins are for all kinds of soft plastics, not just shopping bags.
"Plastic shopping bags are a discretionary item which you can take or leave, but soft plastic packaging is required to protect and preserve many products," she says.
“We are asking people to collect their packaging at home and drop it into the Love NZ Soft Plastics Recycling bins at their local participating stores when they next go shopping, so we can recycle it."
The plastic will be processed, baled and sent to Australia, where it will be made into new products.
RED Group, which runs the operational side of the programme, believes it could take time for people to get into the habit of using the bins.
Director Liz Kasell says it will take at least 12 weeks for people to get used to putting things in the bins.
"We can expect to see an average of six to eight bin liners full of plastic bags and packaging per week per store once things get rolling, equivalent to around 10,000 units of packaging," she says.
The programme is expected to stop around 3 million items of soft packaging from going to landfill across Auckland every month.
The project has received $1.3 million in funding, including $700,000 from the Government Waste Minimisation Fund, with the rest from retailers and several brands.
Soft plastics you can recycle: