WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR RECYCLING
Step 1 - Pick up
Your recycling is picked up by Auckland Council and taken for sorting at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).
Step 2 – Sorting and separation
Our recycling is sorted at an automated Material Recovery Facility (MRF). Wrong items like plastic bags, clothing, batteries and food scraps are removed by hand or mechanically. This makes sure that we only recover the materials that can be recycled. Paper and cardboard are separated with optical sorters while metal items are removed using magnets or an eddy current. Optical sorters also identify different types of plastic. All that’s left is the glass, which is sorted by colour. Once your recycling is sorted, it’s sold to make new products in New Zealand as well as overseas.
Step 3 - Where does your recycling go?
Glass is recycled in New Zealand. It’s mainly turned into bottles and jars but can also be made into what’s known as ‘glasscrete’ and ‘glassphalt’, which is a material used in road building.
Paper and cardboard can be made into newsprint, writing paper, tissue, corrugated cardboard, egg cartons and fruit trays. This is done in New Zealand as well as Asia.
Plastic, depending on the type, is either processed here in NZ (40% in 2023) or sent to Australia and Southeast Asia (around 60% in 2021) to be made into just about anything plastic can be made in to, which is a lot! Buckets, polyester fibre and wheelie bins are just some of the new forms our plastic takes.
Aluminium is used to make new aerosol and drink cans, while steel is made into food cans, wire and building materials in Asia.
So why does New Zealand export recyclable materials?
Since New Zealand has a relatively small population, we don’t generate a lot of recyclable material so there’s not as much demand for recycling processing facilities in this country.
Even though exporting our recyclables overseas means that they need to be transported further, it’s often a better environmental option than using raw materials.