Wellington Scoop

Still no Wellington recycling collections – but stockpiling could be a health hazard

News from WCC
The Wellington City Council’s kerbside recycling collection will remain on hold when the country moves into the new Level 3 next week. With strict guidelines still in place, the safety of staff and the public is still a priority while there is any risk of contamination, says Mayor Andy Foster.

“We’re still in the planning stages following the Prime Minister’s announcement, but we do know that Level 3 is unlikely to see many changes in our services – and that includes kerbside recycling collections.

“Usually our message would be to recycle, but Coronavirus has turned our world upside down, and we need to adapt to the safety measures being recommended – for the protection of our people and the country.”

Wellington City’s kerbside recycling collection is carried out by a contractor, and the sorting of the items is conducted under a separate contract.

Going into the Alert Level 4 lockdown, neither contractor wanted to put its staff at risk, and collections ceased and the facility where recycling was sorted shut down as a result, says Waste Operations Manager Emily Taylor-Hall.

“The main reason kerbside recycling was postponed was that workers at the sorting facility wouldn’t have been able to keep the two metre rule of physical distancing. There remain questions around how long the virus lasts on surfaces like cardboard and plastic, and while the sorting plant is semi-automated, it still has a reasonable amount of hand sorting. These concerns still exist in Level 3 and as such we have been advised that the sorting plant will remain closed.

“We are working through how we can resume our normal waste services in Level 2 and Level 1.”

Despite initial calls to stockpile clean recycling where possible, advice from the Ministry for the Environment is that stockpiling is not recommended as it can be a health hazard, most people don’t have the capacity to store recycling long term, and once the alert levels reduce, the recycling system may be unable to cope with large amounts of stockpiled recyclables.

Waste Minimisation portfolio lead, Councillor Laurie Foon says: “I realise this news will be hard, especially for those who diligently recycle to reduce your waste.

“If you can, please use this time as a chance to keep trying to reduce the waste and recycling that you bring into your home. For example, choosing packaging that you can put in your home compost (like paper and cardboard), or that you can keep and reuse (glass), or simple packaging reduction strategies like buying in bulk.

“There is a lot of information available to help us reduce waste. As a society and a city we must continue to work towards being waste free.”

Recycling collections re-started in the Wairarapa


  1. NigelTwo, 23. April 2020, 11:57

    Here’s a thought WCC: just run a recycling collection, and then dump it. How hard was that?

  2. TrevorH, 23. April 2020, 15:08

    @ NigelTwo: brilliant!

  3. Rita, 23. April 2020, 17:26

    @NigelTwo. I had just been sitting here wondering why the council wasn’t doing this. After all we are still paying for the pick up in our rates and it would help with the large dump run we are all going to have to do. Then I wondered if they wanted the money they’d receive from the dump visits? Sort of double dipping.

  4. Northland, 23. April 2020, 17:44

    How about helping the general populace to reduce waste by introducing some progressive legislation to reduce packaging at source. A plastic tax would be a good start. Any producer using plastic for their packaging to be taxed at a level that realistically covers all collection / disposal and recycling costs incurred downstream. Something like this scheme in the UK.

  5. TrevorH, 23. April 2020, 18:39

    I believe the WCC have long wanted to get out of recycling. This could be their way of achieving that.

  6. Iona Pannett, 24. April 2020, 10:17

    Really, really frustrating as I know people want to recycle but we can’t compromise worker safety. Still stock piling in my little shed. [via twitter]

  7. CC, 24. April 2020, 10:53

    It is a bit puzzling though Iona. The glass recycling is sorted at pickup so why can’t that collection continue. In fact, the workers would be safer than usual as there is far less vehicular traffic along the pick-up routes.

  8. Andrew, 24. April 2020, 11:16

    Ratepayers pay for this service, ratepayers at least pre-sort glass, contractors rely on providing this service to pay their bills. The glass manufacturers rely on a steady stream of recycled glass to keep up production. There’s plenty of room at Happy Valley to stockpile a few weeks’ / months’ / years’ worth of glass recycling. At least collect pre-sorted glass, store it at Happy Valley and dole it out once things get back to the new normal. Surely not a difficult thing to work out, people.

  9. Local, 24. April 2020, 11:22

    Councillors Pannett, Young and Paul: “rubbish” in Aro Valley is a huge issue – walkers in lock down will see that in its true glory. No recycling because of “worker safety” Councillor Pannett? Meaning what? It’s not safe when dwellers leave piles of bottles in the streets and around houses.
    Other councils are recycling. Not Wellington? This is a serious health hazard. Which ward councillor is going to tackle rubbish and recycling in Aro Valley and which councillor over the whole city? Councillors, this is ridiculous and basic and cannot be excused.

  10. Lindsay, 24. April 2020, 17:37

    The Hutt City Council is collecting bottles – so no reason why Wellington shouldn’t be doing this too.

  11. Moocher, 24. April 2020, 20:01

    If the government is still looking to spend up on projects, a New Zealand based recycling operation would be a good idea. Instead of shipping our recycling overseas and every council doing its own version. Just send it all to one facility, it could be run on renewable electricity.

  12. Traveller, 25. April 2020, 17:49

    By the time Wellington gets around to collecting bottles again (weeks after its neighbours have started), there’ll be a huge oversupply that will overload the recycling trucks … The same with recycling in general, unless it’s all been sent to landfill. Sad!

  13. Local, 25. April 2020, 18:15

    What an inexcusable mess. This is so basic. Why could we not have a scheme of refundable bottles, or collection sites at supermarkets, dairies and in various central places? Come on Wellington City Council…this is indicative of some very big fails in top priority areas. There needs to be an interim backup plan now. It is urgent!

  14. Kara Lipski, 25. April 2020, 19:42

    Some of the money being wasted on the convention centre could be used to provide PPE for workers who sort the recycling. As one who cleans containers before putting them in the recycle bin, I think those funds could also be used for education programs.