Recycling and Manufacturing Needs Transparency

Co-founder and CEO of Method Recycling, Steven Korner talks about the plastics problem, recycling and how their award winning bins show that profit and sustainability don’t always need to be at odds.

As you may have heard recently, Wellington Council has announced their plan to only collect plastics 1, 2 and 5 in the kerbside collection.
This move, that follows in the footsteps of councils around the country, highlighting one of the main problems we have - the quality of materials manufacturers are choosing to use. It’s undeniable we have a plastic and waste problem, but it all begins with the manufacturers choice of materials.

We’ve known for some time now that plastics 3, 4, 6, and ‘7’ the other category are difficult to recycle and there isn’t a market for these recycled materials. So the first instinct should be to move to higher quality materials.

Though, I believe to enact real change manufacturers should also take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products and be involved in the recycling process. This is a problem the Regulated Product Stewardship Scheme is planning on addressing in some ways, but if you’re responsible for the recycling process you’re going to choose materials that maintain their value and be responsible for downstream issues that may arise.

It’s something that Method takes very seriously, we utilise post-consumer polypropylene plastic (no 5) from the central north island kerbside collections to make our new product the Method Twenty Litre Bin​. In fact, the Twenty was designed to maximise recycled material inputs resulting in a product that is made of 80% post-consumer recycled content.

We would like to get to 100% NZ recycled materials in both of our bins, but have so far been unable to find a sustainable source of clear PP (no 5) from NZ recycling to allow us to produce our colour-coded lids.

It’s something we will continue to work on, as we know we have the opportunity to help the NZ recycling industry with the demand for recycled plastic, for example, in 2019 alone we utilised over 44 tonnes of NZ recycled PP. The main issue we face is the inflexible nature of recycling processing, but we know that if we continue to research and talk to key players in the recycling industry we can achieve this.

Method are also accepting our product at the end of life​, we see the inherent value in the materials we use. We chip old bins down at the end of their usable life and use the materials to make new bins. As we aren’t an FMCG product we know this is simpler for us than many, but some companies have embarked on this. Such as Coca Cola, who pledged that for every bottle sold, that will collect one and recycle it into a new Coke bottle.

Ultimately this is possible for Coca Colas as they use number 1 plastic (PET) for their bottles which is easily and widely recycled. Comparatively, some juice companies use polystyrene, plastic number 6, to make the bottles for their juice. Number 6 plastic has always been an issue, it's hard to recycle effectively and there isn’t a market for the outputs. Simply moving to PET would completely change the recyclability of their products.

We also can’t ignore greenwashing, which is very prevalent in the plastics industry and transparency from manufacturers is one of the fundamental changes that need to occur for widespread improvement.

We believe that sustainable packaging and products are strategic benefits to your organisation; as people around the world become more aware and concerned about their environmental impact. Our bins have won international awards for the use of plastic in a circular way. Meaning, that sustainability and profit don’t need to be at odds, but rather that you can use it as a driving force for your business.
Regulations, customer and staff expectations will continue to rise, so it makes sense to invest now and see the long term benefits to your business and the environment.

Last but not least, make sure that you’ve got an effective recycling and waste system in your workplace. Desk bins, dumpsters and lone general waste bins are too common and wasteful. While visible and user friendly recycling and waste stations can help you to reduce your onsite waste to landfill by 30% on average, and more if you include education and signage for staff.

Get in touch with the Method team to talk about a recycling and waste system that works for your space, ​