Recycling in New Zealand

Posted on: January 17th, 2013 by admin

Recycling in New Zealand

Recycling in New Zealand is embedded into the culture. Here you don’t just chuck everything into black bags and pop it on the sidewalk on collection day.

Everything gets separated, sorted into bins, or disposed of in different ways. It sounds a little complicated in the beginning, but you will be amazed at how quickly you get into the swing of things and soon it becomes a habit.

How the recycling is sorted is different in the various areas, but here is a general idea :

You will sort your rubbish into 4 piles – landfill, paper, recycling and inorganics. It is best to do this as you go.

Landfill Items

Landfill items cover two types of rubbish. Food waste and general non-recyclable items.
Food waste – You will find that most houses have a “Gobbler” built into the sink. This is used to reduce the amount of waste going to the landfills. As you know New Zealand is a small country so space is at a premium. You use the gobbler to crush and wash away general food waste from your dinner plate. Things like leftover eggs and vegetables are recycled by washing them into the gobbler.  You then activate the gobbler. It shreds the food waste and washes it down the drain. At the water reclamation plant the waste is filtered out and turned into compost.

Food items that you don’t throw into the gobbler are solids and hard items like eggs shells, peels, chicken skins, bones and chunks of meat. These are thrown into the landfill (normal) dustbin.

General non-recyclable items are plastics, metals, metal coated papers, chips packets, plastic shopping bags, etc. , that do not have the recycling mark on them. The recycling mark looks like this :


Landfill waste is then either thrown into a wheely bin or into collection bags which you purchase at the supermarket.

Tip when buying rubbish bags

Some areas have more than one collection company, so be careful if you need to buy your bags from the supermarket. The bags are colour coded. Each colour represents a collection area and also what can go in the bag. Eg., our supermarket has yellow, blue as well as green bags. The yellow and green bags will accept general landfill items, but only the green bags will accept garden waste and inorganics in them. The blue bags however are for a different area and are not collected in our street. On the bag it says what area it is for and what you can put inside it.

Recyclable Items

These are all general household recyclable metals and plastics that have the recycling logo on them. Examples of these are Coke cans, plastic Coke bottles, tins (like the ones that bakes beans come in), glass bottles. You are required to rinse and crush / squash the items. The items don’t need to be sparkly clean though. Your recycling will either go into a blue bin or a wheely bin.

You cannot throw hazardous items into the recycling like engine oil or empty bottles that contained engine oil into the recycling. If you do the bin will simply not be collected and the collection guys will put a sticker on the bin or item to say why the items cannot be collected.  To recycle these items you need to take them to the landfill yourself where they have bins for the engine oil, etc. You can also not throw what is called inorganics into the recycling.


Inorganics are things like a broken bicycle or an old baking tray. Even though they may be recyclable, the regular weekly recycling collection doesn’t accept them.

Other “inorganic” items include items like beds, fridges, furniture, pottery, etc. To throw your inorganics away you can do one of five things:

1) If the items are still in good condition, ie., you just don’t want it anymore, then you can either sell it on TradeMe, pawn it or donate it to an Op shop like Hospice or the Sallies (Salvation Army). Most Op shops will even come and collect the items from you.

2) If the items are small and broken, then some of the landfill collection companies will accept them. You will buy the correct bag at your supermarket, pop the items inside and put the bag out with the rest of the rubbish. See the tip above for more info

3) You can take your inorganics to the landfill yourself and drop them off there. Some councils let you do this for free, which others will charge you.

4) Some areas have what they call an inorganics collection day. On this day you put all your inorganics outside on the sidewalk and it is collected. These collection days are advertised in the local newspaper.

New Migrant Tip

If you didn’t bring a container with and still need furniture, etc., then this is a good day to take a drive around your area. You will be amazed at the perfectly good items of furniture, TV’s, etc that are thrown away on these days. Just wake up early though because you won’t be the only one out Bargain Hunting

5) You can also hire a skip if you have a lot of spring cleaning to do. They will deliver the skip for a fixed price and you can fill it up.

To get rid of old electronic inorganic items like cellphones, printers, computers, etc. you just keep an eye on the newspaper. Every now and again they have collection days at various location where you can go drop these items off.

Paper Recycling

Paper is collected weekly from your sidewalk as well. You will either have a bin for that or you will simply pop all your paper into a box or plastic shopping bag. The paper recycling guys will want you to crush your boxes  and if the paper / cardboard boxes are large they may require you to cut it smaller – small enough fit into a plastic shopping bag.

If you have any doubts as to what goes where just ask your neighbour, most Kiwis are friendly folk and will gladly show you the ropes.

When is Collection Day?

When you move into a new area and don’t know when collection days are, then just keep an eye on the sidewalk. Most people put their rubbish out the night before, so that will give you enough warning to give your rubbish ready for the next day.

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