Answering Rotorua's waste questions


15 May 2017

A team from Rotorua Lakes Council, Smart Environmental and Zenzic Consulting have spent a fortnight examining Rotorua’s rubbish and recycling to better understand how the community deals with its waste.

Waste management is a complex system that is constantly changing and Council’s aim is to make its waste services as accessible and sustainable as possible.

Here are a few of the most asked questions about Rotorua’s waste system:

What is a waste audit?

A waste audit is an analysis of randomly selected bins from around the district to see what the contents are made up of. It is a good way for Council to better understand how the community is using the waste service and where education programmes need to be focussed.

The waste audit looks at approximately 50 bins from across the district. They are sorted anonymously so staff do not know where the waste has come from.

Council plans to carry out waste audits every three years.


Why can’t I recycle plastic bags?

Being able to recycle something depends on whether there is a market for it. This means that somewhere, someone has to buy the recycling to turn it into something new.

Currently, soft plastic such as bags, chip packets and food wrap is not an item that is easily recycled. This is because it costs lots of money to store and transport them, and it is cheaper to make new plastic than it is to recycle it. 

It is not uncommon in New Zealand for waste management contractors to place soft plastics into the general waste.

Council is investigating available options for soft plastic recycling but in the meantime, the best way to avoid having to throw out soft plastic is to stop using it in the first place. Try reusable shopping bags or use containers instead of food wrap.


I’ve heard that I can’t recycle glass – is that true?

No. Clean glass bottles and jars can be recycled at home in the blue crate or larger amounts can be taken to the in-town recycling centre.

Ensure that any bottle caps or jar lids are removed and that there is nothing inside the bottles.

Window glass and ceramics must be placed in your general rubbish bin with the red lid.


Can I put food waste in my red lidded rubbish bin?

Yes. Food waste can go in the red lidded rubbish bin.

If you have a garden or enough space in your yard we suggest trying a compost heap or a worm farm to get rid of greenery and food waste. The reason for this is when green waste or food waste breaks down with Oxygen, like it does covered up in the landfill, it creates a gas called Methane which is bad for the environment.

If you regularly turn your compost to allow Oxygen to get to it then it breaks down and creates Carbon Dioxide which is less harmful to the environment.


I have seen a recycling truck at the landfill. Why?

Sometimes recycling trucks are used when the general rubbish truck breaks down, or if the recycling truck driver has finish earlier he will help out on the general rubbish run.

There are also trucks in Rotorua called ‘tri-combis’ which collect rubbish, glass and recycling. These trucks go to the landfill to drop-off the compartment that is filled with rubbish then they go to the recycling centre to drop-off the glass and recycling.

Waste Management contractors make money by selling the recycling they collect so it would be unlikely to drop it at the landfill.


Is council going to give out fines for not sorting rubbish properly?

No. Council wants to help educate the community to try and recycle more, and to think about the waste they produce.

Smart Environmental will leave stickers on the recycling bin and crate if they have the wrong items. This is so the recycling is not contaminated which could result in it being rejected by the buyers.


Can I recycle meat trays?

Polystyrene meat trays cannot be recycled.

However some supermarkets are now making plastic trays for their meat and these can be recycled – just make sure you remove the soft food wrap from the top first.

Page reviewed: 18 Nov 2017 8:45pm