Bin audits to help identify non-recyclables



22 May 2020 


Ahead of kerbside recycling resuming on 1 June, bin audits are being conducted to make residents aware if there are non-recyclable items in their recycling bin.

During COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 and 4, Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) were closed to help fight the spread of the virus. This meant that while kerbside recycling was collected, the items had to be delivered to landfill, rather than to MRF. During Alert Level 2, MRFs are reopening with new health and safety practices in place, which means they can accept recyclables again.

To monitor and reduce the amount of non-recyclable items being collected in the kerbside recycling, random bin audits are being conducted by collection staff. They check for contamination by lifting the lid of the recycling bin and observing it’s contents. If staff see non-recyclable items, they will place a sticker on the lid of the bin to indicate the contamination.

They will also place stickers on overfull bins, including red lid rubbish bins.

The purpose of the sticker is to create awareness on how to use the kerbside service correctly, by providing direct feedback to residents. This feedback gives residents the chance to remedy the issue to avoid non-collection of their bin after 1 June.

Only clean and dry recyclables should go into the yellow lid bin for the recycling collection. Putting rubbish in the recycling bin can contaminate an entire truckload of recycling. Contaminated items cannot be recycled meaning anything that’s collected could all end up going to landfill.

Contaminants that are common in recycling bins are plastic bags, glad wrap, batteries, polystyrene and Tetra Pak packaging (often used for long-life milk).

Many residents chose to stockpile their recyclable items and wait until recycling operations resumed. They are now able to take these items to the Rotorua Recycling Centre at 24 Te Ngae Road, 7.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. Alternatively, residents can put their recyclables in the yellow lid bin for fortnightly recycling collection from Monday 1 June.

Monday 1 June is a public holiday (Queen’s Birthday) however this does not affect the rubbish collection.

To help remember how to use the kerbside recycling service in Rotorua, residents can use the ‘Six Cs of recycling’ – collect, crate, clean, close, clock and call.

Collect only recyclable materials
- Paper and cardboard
- Aluminium cans
- Plastics numbered 1-7

Put glass recycling in the crate
- Remove the lids of bottles and jars, and put your glass recycling in the crate

Clean the items to avoid contamination
- Clean off any residual food, drink or dirt

Make sure the lid of the bin can close properly
- If the wheelie bin lid is open, items can fall out during collection
- If you have excess recycling, you can take it to the Recycling Centre

Check the clock
- Make sure that your bin is kerbside by 7.30am for collection, or by 5am in the CBD

Any questions? Call the customer centre for advice or more information
- Council’s customer phone lines are open 24/7 on 07 348 4199

Click here and enter your address in the search bar to find out when your next recycling collection is.

Click here for more information about how the kerbside recycling service works and how to use the rubbish and recycling bins.



Will the contents of my recycling bin be recycled under Alert Level 2?

Yes, from 1 June kerbside recycling will resume. Any recycling collected from the kerbside up to 31 May will go to landfill.


Why can the Recycling Centre accept my recycling but my kerbside recycling is still going to landfill until 1 June?

At the Recycling Centre, customers sort their recyclables by type as they dispose of them. The sorted recycling can be sent straight to processing facilities without needing to go to MRFs. The volume of recycling collected at the Recycling Centre is also less than what is collected from kerbside recycling andmore manageable for the contractor.

In your yellow-lid recycling bins, all the different types of recyclables are mixed up and require Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) staff to hand-sort them. 

Hand-sorting recycling is a health and safety risk at this time and this is why MRFs have previously been closed. In Alert Level 2, MRFs are able to operate once they have appropriate health and safety protocols in place. This is a new way of working and adequate time is being taken to ensure the new protocols in place protect the health and wellbeing of staff. MRFs will be fully operational by mid-June.

If I don’t want my recycling to go to landfill, should I continue to stockpile it until 1 June?

If you have space to stockpile recycling in a dry location, please continue to do so. If you do not have room to continue to stockpile until 1 June, you can dispose of your recycling at the Recycling Centre which reopened on Monday 18 May.


I have stockpiled my recycling at home. What do I do with it now?

You can slowly introduce your stockpiled recycling into your fortnightly recycling collection (which begins 1 June). However do not overfill your bin. Excess recycling can also be taken to the Recycling Centre at 24 Te Ngae Road, from Monday – Saturday between 7.30am and 4.30pm.

Why should I continue to only put recyclables in my recycling bin?

Putting rubbish in your recycling bin can contaminate an entire truckload of recycling. Contaminated items can’t be recycled, meaning it could all end up going to landfill.


I have a white sticker on my recycling bin. What does it mean?

Since kerbside recycling is set to resume on 1 June, staff from Smart Environmental and volunteers are currently performing random bin audits to create awareness of correct recycling practices. Any yellow lid bins containing rubbish, green waste or dirty recyclables will receive a sticker that notifies the resident that their bin poses contamination risk to recycling. Any overfilled bins will also be stickered as bin lid must be completely closed to prevent littering or items spilling out during collection.


Why are bin audits necessary?

Bin audits help council learn about how residents use the kerbside collection, how it can divert refuse from landfill to minimise waste, and highlights ways to improve the recycling and rubbish collection.

Now that the recycling service is able to operate again from June 1, Council is focusing on ways to limit contaminated recycling from being collected by our recycling trucks. Bin audits are one way of educating the Rotorua community around what they can and can't put in their bins and how to use the service correctly.


Do other councils conduct bin audits?

Yes, many other councils around the country use bin audits and have been conducting them since their recycling services started.

Auckland Council have said their bin audits have reduced the amount of contaminated material in their kerbside recycling collection and have also helped to change peoples' recycling habits. Read an article about this here.


What will happen if my recycling bin is audited before 1 June?

If your recycling bin has been audited and there were no problems with the items in your bin, it will be collected as normal. If there were non-recyclables in your recycling bin, staff will leave a sticker on the bin to indicate what was problematic and how you can fix it. Your bin will be collected as usual, but you must remedy the issue for subsequent collections.


What should I do if my recycling bin is audited on or after 1 June and it is stickered?

If your recycling bin has been stickered for contamination, please remove the non-recyclable items from the bin and use good recycling practices in the next recycling collection. Your bin will then be collected in next recycling run. Alternatively, you can bring clean recycling to the recycling centre.


My red bin has been stickered. What does that mean?

A white sticker on your red wheelie bin lid indicates that your bin was overfilled with rubbish and the lid was not closed. An overfull bin creates spillage and windblown litter. The bin lid must be closed completely. Before June 1, these stickers are aimed at creating awareness in the Rotorua community and it would not affect refuse collection. After June 1, any stickered red bins will not be collected.


Are bin audits against the privacy act?

No, once the wheelie bin is on the berm, it's in the public domain. The audit is about checking the recycling bins to make sure they do not contain dirty or contaminated materials, household rubbish, or incorrect items. The audit means residents who are not using the service correctly are given notification and time to correct the issue before recycling resumes on 1 June.


What common items are considered contamination in recycling?

The five most common types of contaminants in recycling bins are:

  • Soft plastics (e.g., plastic bags, cling wrap, bubble wraps, foils)
  • Batteries (e.g., alkaline, lithium, coin)
  • Polystyrene (e.g., packaging, containers)
  • Gas canisters 
  • Wood (any kind)


Where can I find information about what can and can’t go into my recycling and rubbish wheelie bins?

You can find information about how to use the kerbside wheelie bin service here.


Will the Rotorua Recycling Centre open during Alert Level 2?

Yes, the Rotorua Recycling Centre (24 Te Ngae Road) is open to the public from 7.30am – 4.30pm Monday to Saturday, and will be accepting most household recycling materials.


What are the changes to the Recycling Centre during Alert Level 2?

  • Only two vehicles will be allowed on site at a time.
  • A maximum of two people per vehicle will be allowed to unload recycling materials  
  • Everyone who enters the Recycling Centre must fill out the contact tracing register for (even if they don't exit the vehicle).
  • All customers and staff must practice two-metre social distancing.
  • The Recycling Centre is currently accepting plastics 1-7, paper and cardboard, tin/aluminium, and glass. They are not accepting appliances or e-waste, as the centres where these items are processed are not currently taking these items. (Appliances and e-waste can be taken to the landfill.)
  • Wait times will be longer due to these changes and we ask for your patience


How can I help to reduce queues and wait times at the Recycling Centre?

Sorting your recycling (plastics, paper and cardboard, tin/aluminium) before your visit to the Recycling Centre will reduce the amount of time you need to spend on site.  


Why aren't all Material Recycling Facilities open?

The majority of MRFs are not fully automated, and require staff to interact with the recyclables.

These MRFs are closed while they make changes to the operation of the facility for the health and safety of staff and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They will reopen in mid June.


When will Material Recycling Facilities open?

The majority of MRFs are able to open mid-June.


What will Smart Environmental do with the kerbside recycling between 1 June and mid-June when MRFs re-open?

Smart Environmental has capacity to collect a limited amount of recycling on site, and send it to MRFs when they are accepting recyclables again. There would not have been enough space to stockpile recyclables during Alert Level 4 and Alert Level 3 (Thursday 26 March 2020 until mid June 2020).

Page reviewed: 22 May 2020 5:42pm