By John Subritzky
We all feel good when we do the right thing and recycle responsibly. By carefully sorting what can and can’t be recycled we are doing our bit for the environment, right?
Sadly, Aucklanders are being let down by Auckland Council exporting ‘mixed plastics’ to Asian countries, predominantly Malaysia and Indonesia, where they have to be properly sorted.
There, the only plastics that can be recycled - types 1, 2, and sometimes 5 - are separated. The unusable types 3, 4, 6, and 7 are dumped or incinerated. It is estimated that only 15 per cent can be recycled. In short, Auckland is exporting waste to other countries.
Greenpeace Aotearoa plastics campaigner Juressa Lee says that a Greenpeace investigation a few years back showed that significant amounts of that 'recycled' plastic was being dumped, buried, or burned at illegal sites in Malaysia with little concern for the health impacts on the surrounding communities.
The government is taking steps to remove problem plastics over the next few years. Until then, will Auckland Council make changes that recover a valuable resource for plastic recycling industries, or continue to take the cheapest, easiest option?