Check it before you chuck it: How one small step can ensure you're recycling right

  • 02/12/2022
  • Sponsored by - Nestlé
Check it before you chuck it: How one small step can ensure you're recycling right
Photo credit: Getty Images

Recycling is second nature to most Kiwis, and we all want to do our bit in Aotearoa, but while our enthusiasm is unquestionable, most of us are making some mistakes along the way.

The Don't Waste Your Waste study conducted by Nestlé, the makers of KitKat, Milo, Maggi and more, shows that while virtually every New Zealander (97 percent) is keen to reduce their waste and recycle, almost 94 percent are unwittingly putting non-recyclables in their standard recycling bin. 

The study also found that of households surveyed: 

  • 37 percent incorrectly put plastic bags and soft plastics in their household recycling bin

  • 67 percent aren't flattening egg cartons before putting them in their recycling bin

  • 81 percent incorrectly assume the chasing arrows logo on plastic packaging means it is recyclable

Getting your recycling right can make a huge difference. New Zealand generates more than 17 million tonnes of waste each year, well over three tonnes per Kiwi, and around three quarters of those materials currently go to landfill. Every bit diverted from landfill counts.

"People want to do the right thing – but two key things are affecting this," says Nestlé Corporate Brand Manager Amanda McDermott.

"Firstly, some people simply put everything in the recycling bin 'hoping' it will be sorted and recycled down the line. Unfortunately, this can be harmful to the recycling process if we put non-recyclable materials in the mix. 

"Secondly, people are making simple mistakes repeatedly, which shows that they need better information and clearer guidance on what goes in what bin."

Luckily, many products now have an easy way to tell exactly where your waste needs to end up.

Check it before you chuck it

The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) is an on-pack label that shows you how to recycle correctly. It gives you concise instructions on which bin to recycle in.   

It also lets you know if there's any extra steps to take such as scrunching, folding or flattening, to ensure the product is recycled properly.

Nestlé has adopted the label which is now featured on more than 90 percent of its products in New Zealand to help improve recycling rates.

Amanda says, "we are working to make our packaging recyclable and we also want to help people make sure it is recycled right, too".

  A common mistake made with recycling is that we throw soft plastics into the household recycling bin - things like grocery bags, chip packets and bubble wrap - but these soft plastics need to be taken to designated in-store drop offs instead. 

You can learn more about soft plastics and check out your closest drop off here.

Another frequent error is food contamination in recycling - remember packaging covered in food waste cannot be recycled if it is not cleaned first. Rinse your plastics before recycling and fold or flatten any cardboard recycling before disposal. 

Simply remembering to ‘check it before you chuck it’ can help to tackle one of our largest environmental challenges.

But while initiatives like the ARL are designed to help consumers do their bit, Amanda says its only part of the solution. 

"Our ambition is that 100 percent of our packaging will be recyclable or reusable. We are working hard to achieve this and are well on our way."

As the world's largest food and beverage company, Amanda acknowledges, "Our actions matter, and we are committed to using our size and scale to make an impact.

"We are determined to not just make our packaging recyclable, but also reduce our use of virgin plastics.”

As Nestlé looks at innovative ways to reduce its use of virgin plastics, it launched New Zealand’s first food wrapped in soft plastic made with recycled content. 

More than 40 million KitKat 45kg bars across New Zealand and Australia will be packed in 30 percent recycled food grade wrappers using the mass balance approach by mid next year. This will cut virgin plastic use by around 250,000m 2 – enough to cover more than 200 x 50m swimming pools. 

While Nestle's sustainability journey will be made up of a hundred small steps, Amanda says the destination is clear.  

"Nestlé's vision is for a waste free future where none of our packaging, including plastics, ends up in landfill, or in any of Aotearoa's precious waterways."

If you want to learn more about Nestlé's packaging strategy, head over to the Nestlé website.

Article created in partnership with Nestlé.