Rinse, Recycle, Repeat.
Every year, about 2.5 million tonnes of solid rubbish is sent to landfills in New Zealand. Space in landfills is becoming scarce, and financially, costs a lot of money to manage. Unfortunately, much of what goes to landfills can be recycled or composted.
The very business of recycling (making new resources from processed recovered used material) overall conserves energy, reduces pollution, saves taxpayer money, forms new careers and builds healthy communities.
Recycling is usually carried out by local authorities themselves via free business, or it is performed commercially by independent recycling providers. The availability of these recycling services is heavily dependent on local councils and ultimately their stance on the importance of recycling. The quintessential role of recycling companies is to collect and redistribute products that are recyclable to the local or international market...yes there is a market for recyclable waste. In fact a good proportion of our recyclables are shipped overseas for processing. Here are some destinations of common New Zealand recyclable items:
Cans - Most steel cans are 'fragmentised' in Auckland and Christchurch, then melted into steel bars and used in construction as reinforcement bars. Aluminium cans are often sent to Japan or Australia for reprocessing.
Glass - Glass can be recycled into other new glass objects like bottles and jars. Interestingly, some of the glass is reprocessed as a sand substitute in road construction. You are literally driving on glass on your way to work!
Plastic - New Zealand, Australia, Asia and China are all big players in the reprocessing of plastic. They are recycled into anything from soft drink bottles, to pillow fillings, to packaging to even speed bumps! Some plastics are even used in manufacturing synthetic clothing.
Paper and Cardboard - Local recycling of paper and cardboard in New Zealand occurs mainly at Carter Holt Harvey's pulp and paper plant. It is reprocessed into cardboard again. However, much of the paper and cardboard is exported overseas. Cardboard is sent to Vietnam and Indonesia and recycled into corrugated cardboard while office paper is sent to Korea to make tissue products.
Recycling is an integral part of developing and maintaining a healthy, sustainable community. The medical sector to date certainly has a long way to go in optimising its recycling practices. And that's why one step at a time, every time, can make all the difference. So please remember to put your coke can in the correctly labeled bin on your way out today...