National recycling standards

On 1st February new rules for recycling came into effect throughout the country. The new national standards will make it easier for everyone to understand what can and cannot be recycled.

So now, you can only put glass bottles and jars, paper and cardboard, aluminium and steel tins and cans, and plastics 1, 2 and 5 into your recycling. Some examples of plastics with a number 1 are fruit and vegetable containers and water or soft drink bottles. Those with a number 2 are milk and juice bottles, shampoo bottles and detergent bottles. The most common examples of plastics with a number 5 are large (1 kg) yoghurt containers, 2-litre ice cream containers and some takeaway containers. It’s usually easy to see what type of plastic something is, by looking at the bottom or side of the bottle or container.

Other plastics, with numbers 3, 4, 6 or 7, or with no number, must go into rubbish which will go to landfill. This is because these plastics are more difficult to recycle. Also, lids need to be removed from bottles and jars and put in your rubbish, as they are too small to be processed by the machines which sort the recycling. Similarly, anything (glass, paper, metal or plastic) less than 50mm x 50mm cannot be recycled, because it may block the machines. Aerosol spray cans and milk and juice cartons are now not accepted by any councils for recycling, although there is commercial or community recycling for them in some places. Soft plastics such as bread bags and plastic bags are not collected by councils, but there are bins for them at many supermarkets in large centres around New Zealand.

It is really important to put the right things into recycling. If rubbish or non-recyclable items get mixed with recycling in bins or bags, then the recycling is considered contaminated and all of it will have to go to landfill. In addition, it’s important to clean anything before putting it into recycling or it could contaminate other items.

There are a few exceptions to these new national rules: Clutha, Hurunui and Westland District Councils can’t recycle glass yet, and Gore Council can’t recycle some paper and plastic. The deadline for these councils to add those types of recycling is now 2027.


come into effect – if a law or rule comes into effect, it officially starts

aluminium – a light metal

steel – a strong metal

detergent – a liquid or powder that helps remove dirt, for example, from dishes or clothes

landfill – a place where rubbish is buried under the ground

50mm x 50mm – 50mm high by 50mm wide              

aerosol spray cans (see picture below)

contaminated – dirty after being mixed with other things

deadline – if you have a deadline, you must finish by that date or time

Image (from Free SVG

aerosol spray can