Wellington’s recycling facility is now the proud owner of an optical sorter, capable of diverting over seven million meat and other clear plastic trays from the region’s landfills and overseas processors each year.
Where the naked eye can’t determine the difference between unrecyclable PVC and recyclable PET meat trays, the optical sorter can identify and separate these items automatically, Wellington City Council said in a statement.
The technology means approximately 27,000 clear PET items will be sorted every day and sent to Flight Plastics in Seaview to be recycled into other products.
Approximately 70% of meat trays are PET grade, but PVC trays can contaminate the product and cause issues with the machinery.
Last year’s Colmar Brunton WasteMINZ survey showed 93% of Wellingtonians recycle, and 87% believed it was worth taking the time to recycle right – higher than the national average.
“The addition of this sorter will make identifying contamination such as PVC trays easier and ensure the processing of items is even more efficient and thorough,” said Wellington Mayor, Andy Foster
“It will also allow the facility owner, Oji Fibre Solutions, to improve the quality of end products on-sold for recycling – while around 90% of Wellington’s kerbside recycling is already recycled in New Zealand, the optical sorter will increase this percentage.
“Having said this, we could all do more to reduce our recycling and waste, and we’re very supportive of the Government’s plans to phase out many single-use plastic products over the next few years,” he said.
Councillor Laurie Foon agreed, and said while the addition of the optical sorter was good news, reducing the city’s waste footprint would be much better.
“We need to be more conscious about everything we buy and resist easy single-use options,” he said.
“Convenience is part of the reason we generate so much waste in the first place – but taking your own container to the deli or butcher to get your fish or meat is an easy replacement for meat trays.”
More than 135 tonnes of materials arrive at the Oji Fibre Solutions plant in Seaview each day from residential kerbside collections around the Wellington region – with 40 tonnes from the Wellington city alone.
Oji’s Sean Somerville (pictured), who oversees the Seaview plant, says the optical sorter was co-funded through the Waste Minimisation Fund and Oji Fibre Solutions.
“The project fits Oji’s goals to minimise waste to landfills and is an example of a number of recent investments the company has made to improve the environment. We were pleased to receive Government support and proud to contribute to improving the recycling infrastructure in New Zealand.”
“If we’re going to make a big difference, everyone has to play their part,” Mr Somerville said.