Turning plastic waste into reusable packaging

  • Scott Simpson
  • Nick Smith

A plastics processing facility in Lower Hutt now has the capacity to turn over 200 million plastic drink bottles a year into high grade food-safe packaging, thanks to a $4 million Government grant.

The facility was today opened by Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Associate Minister Scott Simpson.

“This new plastics processing facility is an important part of the Government’s programme of building New Zealand’s recycling infrastructure. We are encouraging Councils and the public to do more to recycle plastics like soft drink bottles and fruit and vegetable punnets, but we also need the facilities in New Zealand to be able to remanufacture them into usable products,” Dr Smith says.

“The significance of this project and the Government’s $4 million investment is for the first time having the capacity to recycle polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic into food safe packaging. This high-tech, onshore recycling solution will mean greater employment in New Zealand, less energy used in transport and a reduction in the importation of virgin PET plastics for manufacturing.

“China recently announced a ban on importing waste and recyclables from other countries, including New Zealand. This will reduce end markets for our recyclables, and makes it even more important that we are able to recycle on shore.  Flight Plastics will be able to recycle 6000 tonnes of the 8000 tonnes of PET plastic collected for recycling each year in New Zealand.

“As a country we need to be thinking smarter about ways to reduce our waste, and this facility will provide a fundamental change in the way plastic waste is managed,” Mr Simpson says.

“It is pleasing to be able to back an innovative project such as this, which shows Kiwi ingenuity is able to develop practical ideas which enhance our clean, green image.

“The expense of new infrastructure, as well as cost of getting products from one place to another for recycling, has sometimes limited opportunities for on-shore economic development in this space. This is where our Waste Minimisation Fund shows its strengths. The Government’s dedicated fund, created through a levy on waste disposed of at landfills, is available to support these kinds of projects.”

The Waste Minimisation Fund provides financial support to projects that reduce environmental harm and provide social, economic and cultural benefits. It is funded from a levy introduced by the National-led Government in 2009, which is charged on waste disposed of at landfills to discourage waste and to fund recycling initiatives. More than $80 million has been awarded to more than 130 projects to date.