Contamination is leading to nearly half the Timaru district’s kerbside recycling being taken straight to landfill.
It has spurred the Timaru District Council to launch a “What’s in your bin?” campaign to urge residents to curb contamination.
The Timaru district was the first in New Zealand to introduce the three-bin kerbside collection service, and Cr Barbara Gilchrist said it was once a leader in waste minimisation.
However, since the Covid-19 lockdown, 45% of recycling had been going to landfill because of contamination by items including food, nappies, engine parts and chemicals.
“We’re seeing far too many recyclable items going to landfill and sorting our recycling has become a very unpleasant job for staff who have to pick through it by hand,” Cr Gilchrist said.
“Meat products, sanitary pads and nappies are not things we should be seeing anywhere near recyclable plastics, paper and cans.”
One contaminated bin affected not only its own items, but could prevent a whole truck of items from being recycled and severe contamination could even shut down an entire recycling centre.
“This not only costs us as ratepayers, it also wastes valuable landfill space.”
The council was now asking “what’s in your bin?”, producing new guides and resources to remind people what should go in their recycling, organic waste and general rubbish bins.
Clean recyclables went in the yellow bin, organic material only in the green bin and household rubbish in the red bin.
The council website had been updated to make it easier for residents to sort their rubbish, recycling and organic waste.
Each week during the campaign, the council would identify a champion recycler to receive a prize.
“We know that the vast majority of Timaru district residents want to do what’s best for our environment,” Cr Gilchrist said.
“While the overall aim is to reduce the amount we’re sending to landfill, putting inappropriate things in your yellow bin can significantly increase the amount of material that ends up there.
“We’re asking people to take a moment to ensure they sort their waste properly and ask themselves