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The weird and wonderful contents of Aucklanders’ recycling bins

Why taking the time to recycle right this Christmas matters

Published: 23 December 2019

While most Aucklanders do a pretty good job of recycling and putting the right things in their kerbside recycling bin, Auckland Council’s kerbside recycling collection service has turned up some weird and wonderful things over 2019.  Everything from dead animals to bottles of chemicals, golf clubs to plastic deck chairs, barbed wire to home appliances, tree stumps to medical waste, prosthetic body parts to firearms and ammunition, flares to Christmas trees, and car parts to Lego.

Chair of Auckland Council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee, Councillor Richard Hills, says the top spot for the most unexpected item was a closely fought contest between a samurai sword and an artificial hip joint.

“The lead up to Christmas can be a very busy and stressful time for families.  With everything happening, recycling may not be top-of-mind for people, but we’ve certainly got an opportunity to up our recycling game as Kiwis,” adds Councillor Hills.

“About 12 per cent of what is picked up from kerbside recycling collections is either non-recyclable items that people incorrectly put in the bin or items that are too contaminated to recycle. These materials have to be sent to local landfills for disposal where gate fees apply - a costly exercise for both ratepayers and the environment.” 

Santa’s Naughty List – the things that should never go in your recycling bin

Here are the things that Santa doesn’t want to see in our recycling bins this Christmas or in the coming year.  If we can’t reuse or donate them, they need to be diverted to other specialist recycling services or put in our kerbside rubbish bins:

  • Bubble wrap and Plastic bags - take these to your nearest Soft Plastics Recycling Collection Point in Auckland and Hamilton.
  • Ribbons and bows – reuse or donate these.
  • Batteries – take these to a specialist battery recycler.
  • Glitter-laden and shiny coated wrapping paper – reuse this or put it in your rubbish bin.
  • Food scraps – put these in your food scraps bin if you live in Papakura or certain parts of the North Shore. Otherwise, put them in your compost bin, worm farm or bokashi bin.
  • Clothing and shoes – donate to your local charity shop, if in wearable condition, to bring someone else some Christmas cheer.
  • Christmas lights and Electronics – these can be recycled with specialist electrical and electronic waste recyclers.
  • Broken glassware and crockery – these need to be wrapped and placed in your kerbside rubbish bin.
  • Polystyrene, including meat trays – this can be taken to specialist recycling facilities.
  • Single-use coffee cups and lids – these should go in your rubbish bin.

“We especially urge people to keep flammable and explosive items, like batteries, electronics, and electrical appliances, out of their recycling bins. They pose a significant risk in our recycling trucks, especially when the compaction equipment is used,” says Parul Sood, General Manager Waste Solutions.

Santa’s nice list of recyclables:

If Santa was typing up a list of top tips to have a recycling bin full of nice recyclables, here’s what he’d tell you:

  • Completely empty out containers, especially ones with liquid or drink.
  • Rinse out all containers.  The cleaner the better is the rule of thumb.
  • Sort your waste carefully to make sure only the right recyclable containers from the kitchen, bathroom and laundry go in the recycling bin. 
  • Recycle as much as you can of glass bottles and jars, aluminium cans/empty aerosols, steel and tin cans, plastic containers labelled 1-7, paper and cardboard, and liquid paperboard cartons (e.g. used for milk and juice).
  • Flatten paper and cardboard to save space in your recycling bin
  • Remember to:
    • leave the lids on all bottles and containers
    • containers should be no larger than 4 litres

Keeping recyclables out of landfill

The more we recycle, the less goes to landfill.  Currently around 15 per cent of an average Aucklander’s kerbside rubbish bin is made of up materials that could be recycled.  Parul Sood says getting those recyclables into our kerbside recycling bins makes a big difference.

“Taking time to recycle right is a great Christmas gift to our environment and to our economy by supporting those who work in sorting, processing, and recycling these valuable materials,” says Parul Sood.

Are you a recycling legend?

Aucklanders can play council's fun online Recycle Right game to discover if they’re a recycling legend by swiping left and right to choose whether items should go in the rubbish bin or recycling bin.

You can also direct your recycling questions to Auckland Council’s friendly recycling chatbot, Binny, on Facebook Messenger or download the free Binny app at the Apple App Store or on Google Play.

Auckland Council also has a recycling search tool if people are unsure as to whether an item can be recycled or not.

Read more: Waste Environment

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