Misleading recycling claims force new plans
Companies are creating a ‘‘tsunami’’ of plastic waste by falsely telling consumers their packaging can be recycled when it cannot, an eco-educator says.
Eco Educate founder Lesley Ottey said she was horrified to discover her local Spark store was giving out bags it claimed were recyclable.
She said staff at the Rangiora store told her the bags could be put into the local council kerbside recycling bins, and Spark’s Facebook team told her the same.
However, Waimakariri District Council solid waste manager Kitty Waghorn said the plastic could not be recycled anywhere in the district.
‘‘They can’t be put in council kerbside recycling bins, nor in the kerbside containers in Christchurch, Selwyn, Ashburton and Hurunui. They also can’t be put into plastics recycling bins at Rangiora’s Southbrook resource recovery park or the Oxford transfer station.’’
The plastic was too thick to go into the soft plastics bins at local supermarkets and branches of The Warehouse. The best solution was always to say ‘‘no’’ to bags, she said.
Ottey said the same problem could be found at New World supermarkets, where deli pottles marked ‘‘recyclable at kerbside’’ ended up clogging the recycling stream. The pottles are waxed, meaning they are a mixed-material product, so cannot be recycled or put in compost bins.
‘‘Big companies need to realise what they are doing by producing this stuff in the first place. They are just not doing their homework. They are forcing a tsunami of crap on us. Their claims of recyclable plastics are just green-washing and it is confusing everyone.’’
She urged businesses to take their product stewardship seriously and ask for advice before putting out new items.
Spark confirmed Ottey’s concerns had prompted immediate action. A spokeswoman said store staff would now be instructed to tell customers to check their local council website for recycling rules. The bags would also be relabelled to remove confusion.
‘‘This has been a good trigger for us and we will now be looking at what other options are available to us.’’
Change is also imminent at Berica, the company that supplies the deli pottles to New World. Chief executive Richard Beatson said the company had become increasingly concerned that its paper food bowls were not generally recycled throughout New Zealand, so had taken steps to correct it.
He said one of the key frustrations for suppliers was that many items able to be recycled in other countries could not be processed in New Zealand because of a lack of facilities.
‘‘We have been working with a reputable recycling company and have provided them samples of our product to be tested in their laboratory.
‘‘Their report, received just last week, confirmed that they are unable to put the paper bowls through their recycling plant.’’ Beatson said all new stock, due into the company’s warehouse later this month, would be free from any reference to recycling.