The New Zealand government will fund efforts to create a plastic film recycling infrastructure while avoiding bag bans or fees.
The island country of 4.5 million people currently has no film recycling program.
Environment Minister Nick Smith announced the government will provide a $700,000 ($465,000 U.S. dollars) grant to the Packaging Forum and a $510,000 ($339,000 USD) grant to plastics recycling company Astron Plastics Group. The money comes from the Waste Minimisation Fund.
Funding to the Packaging Forum, which operates voluntary stewardship programs, will help establish collection points over the next three years at retail locations. Films will be picked up by a program called REDcycle, which currently runs collections in Australia. Initially, bales will be shipped to Australia for recycling, until facilities can be constructed in New Zealand to recycle them, according to the Packaging Forum.
The long-term objective will be to have drop-off locations within 12 miles of 70 percent of the New Zealand population, Smith said.
Lyn Mayes, manager of the Public Place Recycling Scheme, a stewardship program under the Packaging Forum umbrella, stated in a press release the public will be able to drop off a range of films — “basically anything made of plastic which can be scrunched into a ball.”
The government’s grant to Astron Plastics Group will help enable recycling of up to 2,200 tons of soft plastics per year at a facility in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. With facilities in Australia and New Zealand, Astron specializes in recycling HDPE, LDPE and PP.
“We have well-established recycling infrastructure at our Auckland premises but are limited in terms of our ability to process contaminated soft plastic,” Steve Mead, Astron business manager, told Plastics Recycling Update. “The government funding will be used to procure and install a MAS DRD (dry-cleaning) system so that we can pre-clean the post-consumer plastic bag material prior to our normal recycling processes (extrusion, melt filtration, degassing, pelletizing). We will then use the recycled resin to extrude sheeting products such as cable cover and flat sheet.”
Environment Minister Smith, a member of the governing center-right National Party, said the funding strategy “is a more sensible approach than a ban or a compulsory levy on just plastic shopping bags.”
The country’s left-wing Green Party supported the recycling plan but said more needs to be done to reduce plastic bag usage.
“We still need a levy on plastic bags and to move towards an outright ban on their use – like in Australia where most states either have a ban or a levy on flimsy single-use plastic bags,” Green Party spokeswoman and Member of Parliament Denise Roche stated in a press release.