Thumbs Down for Glass Recycling in Christchurch

Citing it will cost ratepayers up to $1.4 million extra each year and will negatively impact climate change, a separate glass recycling scheme for Christchurch has been given the thumbs down by a council report.

Two city councillors, however, are pushing for the scheme to go ahead and have dismissed the report’s findings.

Councillors Phil Mauger and Aaron Keown called on the council in November last year to investigate the possibility of the council implementing a glass recycling scheme where residents would put glass in a separate bin.

Presently, Christchurch residents are supposed to put glass into their yellow recycling bin. Any glass put in these bins is later crushed and then mixed with shingle at a quarry, which is eventually used in a road subbase. The two councillors believe there are better uses for the glass.

Council staff have recommended the council not proceed with a separate glass collection until more information is available about the Government’s proposed container return scheme (CRS) and any plans it has to standardise kerbside collections across the country.

A staff report said it was highly likely both of those schemes would have significant implications for the services provided by the council. The new bill was not expected to be passed into law until early 2024.

Any separate glass collection scheme was likely to have a significant negative financial impact for the council, the report said. At best, it would cost $610,671 per annum, over and above the existing scheme, but it could be as much as $1.4m depending on how much glass was recycled through the CRS instead.

CRS would encourage people to return bottles and cans for recycling by including a refundable deposit in the purchase price.

Some advantages of a separate glass collection were highlighted in the report, including the fact that a higher price could be obtained for paper and cardboard collected at the kerbside because it would not be contaminated with glass.

The report also said a separate glass recycling collection would have negative climate change impacts. There was only one glass recycling facility in New Zealand, and it was in Auckland, so transporting the glass there would produce “significant” greenhouse gas emissions, it said.

Keown said he could “pick holes” in the report all day long.

“It’s a really disappointing report. It doesn’t solve any problems, it just puts them off.”

Keown said the argument about increased emissions did not make sense because importing glass must have a greater impact on emissions. He said people believed the glass they put in their yellow bins was being recycled back into glass. He did not believe crushing it and burying it under roads was recycling.

Mauger said he did not agree with any of the report.

“We are the only place in the South Island that does not recycle glass separately.”

He believed a separate glass collection was the right thing to do.