Buller District Council and Smart Environmental Ltd (SEL) will be partnering for another summer of recycling bin audits, starting on 19 February.
Council and SEL trialled a recycling bin audit system for the first time in March 2022. Staff checked residents’ recycling bins and tagged them with a green, yellow, or red tag based on their compliance with the district’s recycling rules over a period of three months.
This summer, the bin audits will focus on educating residents about the new recycling guidelines following the Ministry for the Environment’s order to standardise all recycling collection guidelines across New Zealand from 1 February 2024.
All materials currently accepted for kerbside collection in Buller will remain recyclable. In addition, plastic meat trays marked 1 and pizza boxes without food residue will now be accepted. All plastics marked 1, 2 and 5, whether they are clear or coloured, can now be recycled. Previously only clear plastics were accepted.
This will be the third time the auditing program has been run in Buller, and the district’s zone one recycling guidelines changed to align with these new standards on 1 February 2024.
Last summer, Buller’s recycling contamination rate dropped from 32% to 12.9% during the second bin audit program in December 2022.
Recycling contamination happens when items that do not meet the recycling criteria are found in recycling bins, e.g. materials that are not accepted or materials that have not been cleaned properly. Buller’s recycling contamination rate in the kerbside collection is currently 29% – the national average national is 16% – 20%.
Council and SEL say they are confident that the bin audit program provides a worthwhile opportunity for education and positive reinforcement, encouraging Buller residents to minimise their waste and get recycling right. Residents’ yellow bins and glass crates will be audited and receive a coloured tag based on the contents’ compliance with the new national recycling guidelines.
A green tag means the recycling bin contains only recyclable items which fully meet the guidelines.
Recycling bins containing a few non-recyclable items will receive a yellow tag. These bins will still be collected.
Recycling bins that contain a large number of non-recyclable items will receive a red tag and not be collected. Non-recyclable items pose the risk of contaminating the rest of the district’s recycling collection and cause issues at the recycling centre.
Residents whose bins are audited will receive a flyer in their letterbox explaining Buller’s new recycling guidelines and describing improvements they can make to ensure a green tag next time.
Council’s solid waste coordinator Juliana Ruiz says, “The pilot program was positively received by the community, with residents changing their behaviour, indicating their desire to improve their recycling.
As we audit the bins, we can help residents to adjust to the new rules on a more targeted one-on-one level.”
Residents can access information and flyers explaining the new guidelines on council’s website.