Source: Whangarei District Council
Updated: 21/08/2019 12:00 a.m.
It is rubbish day and thousands of people across the Whangārei District are putting out their recycling bin in the morning, then picking it up empty later in the day, ready to be filled for the following week.
But what really happens to the things we recycle, and how does it happen? Who does it? What is the result?
These questions are front of mind when planning recycling schemes, and as a new glass recycling system is piloted in Hikurangi this month, showing people what happens is also front of mind.
“Our recycling relies on the staff in the collection trucks sorting everything that goes into the recycling bin, by hand. They don’t just pick it up and chuck it in the truck – it is a thoughtful process that takes time. If our people didn’t do such a thorough job, the recycling could not be sent for re-processing. They really are the heroes of the recycling system.
“People don’t realise how important the sorting they do at home, and that the team does on the road, is to whether or not products really are recycled.
“Next month we are introducing a system in Hikurangi, to help improve the process for our sorters.
Every household will be getting a new, blue, plastic crate, that is only to be used for clean, unbroken glass jars and bottles.
When the handlers pick up the bins they will sort the glass by colour, into different bins on the truck. These are then sent for recycling in colour batches.
“The handlers pick up the recycling bins, hook them onto a rail on the truck, throw the items in the bin into the sorting windows on the truck. Then they unhook the bin and move on to the next one.
“We don’t have glass recycling places in Whangārei, so we rely on recyclers in Auckland to take our glass and reprocess it.
“The glass bottle manufacturer in Auckland wants particular colours of glass separated so that they can make the different coloured bottles and jars.
“That comes back to every one of us in our home, putting out our recycling and our handlers, sorting correctly.
“Glass quality is also important – it should be clean bottles and jars only, otherwise the contaminants including window glass and drinking glasses or ceramics can ruin the final product. If the manufacturer does not want it must go into the landfill.
“Our handlers really are picking up this glass in their hands, sorting it by colour and throwing it into the bins. If glass is broken it can cut them and cause injuries and infections, putting them off work, potentially affecting them for a long time, and also increasing costs.