Re­cy­cling sys­tem is de­fended

The Southland Times - - News - Am­ber-Leigh Woolf am­[email protected]

Ki­wis don’t know if their plas­tic is be­ing re­cy­cled, end­ing up in il­le­gal dump­ing sites in Malaysia, or be­ing burned by the moun­tain load.

But a spokes­woman for the As­so­ciate En­vi­ron­ment Minister says New Zealand should not stop ship­ping waste to South­east Asia.

This week, speak­ers from Malaysia trav­elled the coun­try with Green­peace to spread the mes­sage that ‘‘re­cy­cling is a myth’’.

WasteMINZ chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul Evans said rub­bish found by Green­peace in il­le­gal dump­ing sites in Malaysia had printed words in­di­cat­ing it could also be from Aus­tralia, but there was no way of know­ing.

‘‘Even if it was com­ing from Aus­tralia, what makes us think we’re that much dif­fer­ent?

‘‘We’ve got a re­ally im­por­tant role to play.’’

Ac­cord­ing to ex­port data, 4000 tonnes of plas­tic was shipped from this coun­try to Malaysia in the first half of 2018 af­ter China stopped ac­cept­ing the world’s re­cy­cling.

Evans said New Zealand could not turn a blind eye to the prob­lem, but to stop ship­ping waste to Malaysia was not the so­lu­tion.

‘‘I don’t think we should stop send­ing re­cy­cling to over­seas mar­kets sim­ply be­cause we can’t use all of that ma­te­rial in New Zealand.’’

There did need to be new fa­cil­i­ties to process the plas­tics here, he said.

In Au­gust, Welling­ton City Coun­cil staff trav­elled to Malaysia and found their ‘‘re­cy­clable’’ plas­tic meat trays from Welling­ton were be­ing dumped.

It came as a shock, as meat trays had been touted as a re­cy­clable op­tion to poly­styrene foam trays.

But Evans said it was not fea­si­ble for ev­ery coun­cil to travel to South­east Asia to see where their waste was go­ing.

Lay Peng, who works as a com­mu­nity ac­tivist for the Kuala Lan­gat En­vi­ron­men­tal group, said she would leave home in the mid­dle of the night to find plas­tic be­ing burned in se­cret open fires in her vil­lage of Jen­jarom.

The fumes from burn­ing plas­tic were harm­ing Malaysian res­i­dents in vil­lages and lin­ger­ing in their homes, she said.

In a state­ment, a spokes­woman for As­so­ciate En­vi­ron­ment Minister Eu­ge­nie Sage said the En­vi­ron­ment Min­istry has asked re­source re­cov­ery op­er­a­tors to con­sider en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues in their in­ter­na­tional con­tracts.

The re­cy­cling sys­tem in New Zealand was good, she said.

‘‘We should con­tinue to in­vest in this. How­ever, it’s ob­vi­ously not the whole an­swer – we need to pre­vent waste from the out­set by de­sign­ing it out of the sys­tem, in­clud­ing cre­at­ing prod­ucts that last and can be re­paired or have com­po­nents that can be reused.’’

There was no need for Ki­wis to stop re­cy­cling, she said.

Fur­ther­more, New Zealand should not stop ship­ping re­cy­cling to South­east Asia. ‘‘But I do sup­port those coun­tries set­ting stan­dards about what they want com­ing into their coun­try,’’ she said.

‘‘We need to pre­vent waste from the out­set by de­sign­ing it out of the sys­tem.’’ Spokes­woman for As­so­ciate En­vi­ron­ment Minister Eu­ge­nie Sage

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