Each year, approximately 250,000 tonnes (1.6 billion plastic bags) of plastic waste is dumped in New Zealand landfills. Soft plastic food packaging such as plastic bags and plastic wrap can’t be handled within New Zealand’s basic recycling system, so they are instead diverted to landfill.
The Glad Food Storage Brigade is an innovative programme that aims to provide nationwide access to a soft plastic recycling system. TerraCycle and Glad seek to successfully implement the new recycling system by using a simple “collect, store and ship” method. The programme encourages New Zealanders to collect their used Glad packaging and place them in any used cardboard box. They should then visit the TerraCycle website to claim a free shipping label, and finally ship the box through via New Zealand Post. The plastic packaging is then recycled into other usable and more sustainable items, such as park benches.
To better promote the recycling of plastic bags, Glad and TerraCycle are rewarding recyclers with two cents per used Glad food storage posted. The money they accumulate is redeemable via donation to a charity of their choice.
Although the programme is innovative, it is not the first. Last year the New Zealand Government partnered with retailers and the packaging industry to help establish a system that would allow for plastic packaging to be recycled. The system is very similar to the programme proposed by TerraCycle and Glad as it plans to ship all of the collected plastic packaging to Australia to later be recycled into park benches, and playground items.
“It’s easy to enjoy a litter-less lunch at school, home or work by saving and giving your plastic food packaging a new life. Individuals and groups can participate in the programme, which is the first of its kind in New Zealand to collect plastic food storage on a national scale by providing a mail-in option and public drop off points” said Anna Minns, general manager, TerraCycle, NZ.
Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith last year highlighted the importance of such programmes, as he cited the Coles Group in Australia as an example of a successful plastic bag recycling venture. Coles Group implemented a similar programme that stopped thousands of tonnes of plastic from entering the landfills.
Plastic recycling programmes have garnered sufficient support from the NZ retail industry with major retail brands such as Pams, Huggies and New Zealand Post are joining the programmes. The coming years will reveal how successful these ventures become and if TerraCycle and Glad will provide a successful model for others to follow.