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Transfer stations and recycling in level 3

Transfer stations remain closed at alert level 3

Just as many of us are thrilled to get our first takeaway in five weeks, some people are just as excited to visit the transfer station with their rubbish, recyclables and garden waste, after a great lockdown clean up.

While that seems reasonable, in reality it’s a bit of a different story. Here’s why:

  1. Level 3 is not about allowing more movement, it is about supporting businesses that can help stimulate the economy. This is why many of New Zealand’s transfer stations are only open to waste service providers and business account holders.
  2. Social distancing is still part of level 3 - and tricky to manage at Tauranga’s transfer stations. You no doubt have some experience over the past weeks to realise that not everyone’s idea of 2 metres is the same. Rest assured that we are working on solutions to keep everyone safe both now, and when moving down the alert levels. 
  3. Once transfer stations re-open we anticipate a rush that could result in long queues. As Tauranga’s transfer stations only have one entry and one exit, waste service provider trucks and account holders use the same way in and out as the public which means they will get stuck in queues. Risking delays to city wide collections is the last thing we want, so at this stage we cannot open to the public. 
  4. The Jack Shaw cleanfill site will remain closed, even for essential services. This puts even more pressure on the transfer stations, as those who would normally use the cleanfill will now also need to use the transfer stations. Therefore, we need to ensure the transfer stations are safe and efficient for businesses operating at level 3 and can cope with the extra demand that this creates.

At this stage of managing the pandemic for New Zealand, we’re very much still at a level where we are treading carefully to not risk another spike in COVID cases. This is why the government still asks New Zealanders to stay home and keep your activities non-motorised. Remember, we’re doing this to beat the virus and keep the most vulnerable in our community safe. 

If you have waste to get rid of, use your kerbside services, hire a skip or hold on to your waste until the transfer stations are open to the public. We appreciate your understanding and support.

No one is happy about recycling going to landfill

There are two main reasons why most recycling is going to landfill:

  1. In most parts of the country (including Tauranga), the method for sorting mixed recycling is manual, meaning people sort the materials by hand. Multiple people are doing it at the same time, making it hard to maintain physical distancing, while sorting the material effectively. They may be able to wear gloves and glasses, but this still poses a health and safety risk. Some recycling can still occur, this is managed between private waste service companies and their customers on a case by case basis.
  2. The market for recyclable material has decreased as a result of border restrictions around the world. Where material can be recycled in New Zealand (and it is automatically sorted like in Auckland) this is continuing. However, all material that is normally sold to overseas markets now needs to be sent to landfill. We don’t know when the markets/borders will re-open, and when they do, they will not be able to take all of the material that has been stored. This is a national problem - not just for Tauranga - and it is something that the government is working to address.

This brings us to storing/stockpiling recyclables

If you, like us, hate the idea of recycling going into landfill, you may be holding on to recycling for the time being. While this sounds like a great idea, and we know you have the best of intentions, please don’t. This is not a local issue, it is a global one.

As mentioned above, a lot of New Zealand’s recyclable material is purchased by overseas markets. These markets have been impacted by COVID-19, and only a very limited amount of recyclables are being sold.

There are three reasons why stockpiling is no solution. We have been told by the recycling industry that if we store recyclables, it is likely that their quality will deteriorate (due to food residue and exposure to sunlight for example). Therefore stockpiling, whether at your house or in large warehouses, is not a solution. And if that wasn’t enough, there is no way to sort a backlog of recycling later, and there is no increase in demand for recyclable materials to be able to sell this excess.

So please, do not store your recyclables, place them in the rubbish instead. We understand this is a hard to hear and do, but at the moment it is the only option we have.

We will be the first to let you know when recycling can resume. In the meantime, please continue to do your part for the environment by reducing your waste, including recyclables. 

What will this do for our waste statistics?

We are monitoring the amount of waste being sent to landfill at this time and will continue to do so over the coming months, until we return to normal. 

You may recall we have undertaken waste surveys in the past to understand the amount and type of waste that our community disposes of. We use this information to monitor our city’s performance and determine what actions we need to take to achieve the city’s vision of ‘minimising waste to landfill’.

We would like to assure you that we will not be undertaking these surveys until services and facilities return to business as usual, and everyone in the community has the opportunity to recycle again.

For more information, please read the full list of frequently asked questions.

Posted: Apr 30, 2020,
Categories: General, COVID-19,
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