Packaging recycling reaches 60%

A five-year agreement to recycle packaging has already resulted in a 60% recycling rate four years after it was signed.

The Packaging Accord was agreed by the New Zealand Environment Ministry, the Packaging Council, Local Government New Zealand and the Recycling Operators of New Zealand in 2004.

The fourth annual progress report, published on Tuesday, revealed that the country’s packaging recovery rate is now 60%, equalling or surpassing the rates in the EU, USA and Australia.

The figure is an increase on last year’s rate, when recycling reached 57%, and all targets for individual packaging types have been met or beaten.

Tony Nowell, Accord’s chair, said: “We are collecting a massive 69,000 tonnes more packaging each year than we did at the outset.

“To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent of eight football fields of packaging diverted from landfill to use either to create new packaging or to make new products.”

He added: “Since the state of the Accord, consumption has increased by 5.4% but is slowing, while packaging recovery has increased in the same period by 17% and is continuing to outstrip consumption.”

Mr Nowell said that although markets for the recycled products at home and abroad now have an estimated economic value of about $100m, more should be done to enable recycling to happen in New Zealand.

“In additional to international markets, we must also continue to commercialise new recycling businesses here. But we need critical mass to compete globally,” he said.

Paper packaging has now reached a recycling rate of 78%, which Accord said was a new “world class high”, while glass is at 62%. Plastics met its target, but still less than a quarter of plastic packaging is recycled.

Reacting to the findings, Paul Curtis, executive director of the Packaging Council, said: “The numbers show that recycling is becoming a way of life, whether at home or at work.

“This is a great result reflecting what can be achieved if manufacturers and retailers, local and central government, recycling operators and the community have a common goal.”

Kate Martin

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