Lazy recycling habits costing local councils hundreds of thousands of dollars

Local councils are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars because of our lazy recycling habits.

When recycling is contaminated ratepayers end up with the bill for separation and decontamination, or landfill.

And one city stands out for the seriousness of its problem.

The majority of us do our bit, but take a deeper look and you wouldn't believe some of the things that end up in our recycling bins.

Recycling operators are seeling everything from microwaves to dead cats. Not only is it dangerous, it's costing ratepayers.

"We end up having to separate that all out and that's costly and then landfilling it is also another cost to that," says Auckland councillor Richard Hills.

Last year it cost Auckland Council $420,000. Wellington's costs have jumped to around $470,000.

But the biggest concern is in Christchurch. Last year contaminated recycling cost the city $12,000 and in just the past six weeks alone it's cost them $330,000.

"There's two things that go in your bin which we do not want, one is obviously the wrong items, and the other bits are contaminated recycling which is just not worth taking through," says Parul Sood, Auckland Council general manager of waste solutions.

Contamination also reduces the quality and therefore the value of the product to be recycled.

A few small changes could make a huge difference.

Just doing simple things like making sure your pizza box is empty and your recyclables are rinsed could save the council hundreds of thousands of dollars and means more of it actually gets recycled.

"It's even things like leaving the caps on your milk bottle so those can be completely recycled because often they can get missed off," Hills says.

While Christchurch recyclers are struggling to get back into good habits post lockdown, Aucklanders actually got better.

"People did get better during lockdown, I think they had more time, paying more attention to recycling and we do see that trend during holidays as well," Sood says.

Councils say it literally pays to take the time and do it right.