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Kapiti firm bypassed in Asian plastics war

Nov 1st, 2008 | By | Category: Latest News, News

District councils are not seeing the big picture when making decisions about waste processing, says a Raumati Beach resident keen to see society weaned off dependence on oil.

Sending recyclables to private contractors, who then send them overseas for the best prices, is short-term thinking, according to Andrew Rundle-Keswick of Transition Towns Kapiti.

“We have the concept of food miles, maybe we need to look at our waste miles,” he says.

Kapiti residents’ kerbside recycling is picked up by the district council and sold to Allbrite Industries Ltd, which on-sells it to Asian outlets.

That’s disappointing, says Mr Rundle-Keswick. “It would concern me that when peak oil hits us and we can’t afford to send it to Asia, our local companies might have gone out of business.”

Pacific Plastics in Otaki has been manufacturing products from recycled plastics for 28 years and has been working to increase capacity since a 2006 fire. A new building is set to open after Christmas.

Managing director John Cribb says the business has potential, although it is tough, with overseas buyers competing for the same source materials.

“People don’t realise what the recycling industry’s doing. China dictates the price: they can pay a dollar a day for labour so they can pay high prices.”

The business’s two trucks “drive around all day, every day”, collecting recycling material from local businesses and councils such as Kapiti, Horowhenua and Palmerston North.

The company processes milk bottles, shampoo bottles, supermarket bags, bread bags, shrink wrap and ice cream containers, to make into garden edging, buckets, safety tread mats and pipes for use in New Zealand and overseas.

Items from the Kapiti Coast District Council’s recycling stations have been part of the company’s intake but, since the kerbside recycling scheme started last month, the volume has decreased.

Two of the recycling stations have closed, and the Rimu Rd one in Paraparaumu will close in January 2009, leaving only two, in Waikanae and Otaki.

“It will have a big effect on us when the recycle stations close,” Mr Cribb says. This will mean all Kapiti district’s household recyclables end up in Asia.

Council spokesman Tony Cronin says local businesses don’t have the capacity to process the recycling. The fire at Pacific Plastics “rather limited our options”, he says.

“Part of it is that we need to get a decent price,” says Mr Cronin. “If we don’t, the price of rubbish bags would have to increase.”

As for long-term planning for peak oil, he says: “That’s a fair way into the distance.”

Mr Cribb said it’s incorrect to say Pacific Plastics doesn’t have the capacity. “They made that decision without communicating with me. I don’t want to enter into ‘argy-bargy’ with them because I’ve never communicated that with them.”

TOP: Joe Taueki working to turn shrink wrap into granules at Pacific Plastics.

BELOW: Waste becomes an exportable product. Carissa Skipper with plastic granules.

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is a Whitireia Journalism student.
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