The Packaging Forum’s Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme celebrates 5 years

It’s now five years since our first soft plastic collection bins were introduced at supermarkets and stores across Auckland. After a temporary pause in collections at the beginning of 2019 because overseas processing markets dried up, the Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme is going from strength to strength.

Lyn Mayes is Scheme Manager and was part of the project team that set up the first trial in 2015:

“The bins started filling up and we knew this was going to be a success.  People love being able to drop off their soft plastic bags and wrappers. We keep our message simple. If its soft plastic and you can scrunch it up in a ball, you can put it in our bins. We ask people to only recycle bags that are clean, dry and empty.

“There is only a small amount of rubbish being placed in our soft plastic bins and we know from our audits that this contamination usually comes from people who are looking for a rubbish bin rather than shoppers who have collected their soft plastics at home. To minimize this, some supermarkets have moved their bins away from the entrance.”

 “We have also made changes to our logistics to reduce as much as possible the environmental impacts of transport. Countdown and Foodstuffs bale the soft plastic at the back of their stores and transport these bales to Future Post to be turned into plastic posts. Social enterprises Abilities in Auckland and Earthlink in Wellington continue to support the scheme by collecting from The Warehouse and other stores.   Soft plastic packaging collected from the Upper North Island goes to Future Post in Waiuku and materials collected from the Wellington region are processed where possible at Second Life Plastics in Levin creating our own regional circular economy.”

The scheme’s success relies on funding from brand owners, and Lyn says the annual audit conducted by Waste Not Consulting separates out bags into product categories and brands so provides feedback on how their customers are doing. “It also allows us to target brands who are not currently funding the programme, but whose customers are using the service.”

“We now have 85 members representing 74% of the brands which use soft plastic packaging for their food and grocery products. We really want to encourage those in the food and grocery sector to get behind this programme if they use soft plastic packaging, so that we can expand and grow the service as we work towards a mandatory product stewardship scheme.”

“An increasing number of members use our recycle at store label with a URL link to the store locator website to help consumers understand what soft plastics can be recycled and where to drop them off. Brands also promote the scheme through videos, social media and buying the fence posts, vege gardens and other products either for their own business or for community groups.”