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Rubbish and recycling during COVID-19 response Level 2

Information for the public on dealing with rubbish and recycling under Level 2 of the COVID-19 response and recovery as at 20 August 2020.

Household rubbish

Collection of rubbish during Level 2

  • Rubbish collection will continue throughout Level 2 and all Covid-19 alert levels. 
  • Continue using your kerbside rubbish collection for rubbish disposal. 
  • Please check your local council or private collector website and social media platform regularly for updates on kerbside collection dates and recycling arrangements in your area. 

Municipal landfills and transfer stations are open to the public

  • During Level 2 transfer stations across New Zealand are open where contactless payment, contact tracing and other health and safety measures are in place. 
  • Please check your local council website for more information about services in your area. 
  • A decision on whether a transfer station is open will be determined by a range of factors including: the ability to offer contactless payment options, maintain social distancing and manage contact tracing - all in line with Government guidelines.  If these factors can’t be satisfied, the transfer station will not be able to open. 

Household recycling

Household recycling at Level 2

  • Many districts have returned to normal recycling services under Level 2.
  • Wherever possible, please continue to recycle, and check your local council or private collector website and social media platform regularly for updates on recycling arrangements and kerbside collection dates in your area.
  • Please note that during Level 2, where recycling collections are happening, some materials may continue to go to landfill where access to overseas markets has been restricted or where materials are heavily contaminated. 
  • Ministry for the Environment officials are monitoring the situation around the country and working with councils and operators to keep recycling and the on-shore processing of this recycling operational wherever possible. 

Why each council may have a different policy around recycling

  • Recycling is an essential service, which means recyclers may continue their services, but worker safety is paramount. Depending on the systems in place, some materials may not be able to be processed safely at different alert levels. 
  • Some councils have more automated recycling systems which meant they were able to carry on collections and sorting processes at Levels 3 and 4. Other systems have more hand-sorting, so employers need to address health and safety concerns first. For example, social distancing and access to personal protection equipment are needed to prevent exposure to any household materials contaminated with the coronavirus.
  • During the Covid-19 period, some councils can recycle some items, such as glass and cardboard, but not others, such as plastics. This is because, if collected separately, glass and cardboard can bypass the material recovery facilities and additional handling requirements.

What is happening in your area

  • Please check your local council or private collector website and council social media platforms regularly for updates on recycling arrangements and kerbside collection dates.

Inorganic Collections

If your council has a kerbside inorganic collection planned, it is possible for this collection to go ahead under Level 2 provided the staff operating the collection are wearing the relevant personal protective equipment i.e. gloves and masks. Check with your local council website to see if the collection is still going ahead, before placing items out for collection.

How to reduce rubbish and recycling during the Covid-19 period

There are sites to find out more about reducing how much waste we create

    Masks and gloves

    What to do with used masks and gloves (Personal Protective Equipment – PPE)

    • Please place used masks or gloves in rubbish bins for safe disposal at landfills.
    • Please do not dispose of used face masks or gloves or any other PPE in household or public recycling bins.  
    • To minimise PPE waste, buy a reusable mask or make your own - you can find how-to videos on YouTube. 

    Wet wipes

    What to do with used wet wipes

    Infected household rubbish

    If you had Covid-19 infected people in your home – what should be done with rubbish

    • Contaminated rubbish items such as tissues and wet wipes from these households should be put into a separate bag and either tied or sealed before putting into the general household rubbish bag or bin.

    If there is no kerbside collection service

    • Please check with your council website as some transfer stations may be available for public drop off if the rubbish is in prepaid bags. 

    Rubbish handling and kerbside collection workers

    Ensuring their personal safety

    • Rubbish handling and kerbside collection workers are providing an essential service and continue to work during all the Covid-19 alert levels. They have been provided with training and appropriate protection equipment by their employers to ensure their personal safety. 
    • Please do not approach workers engaged in rubbish handling or collection services. 

    Food scraps

    How you can cut down on food scraps

    • New Zealand’s Love Food Hate Waste website is full of great tips and tricks to help save households money and reduce food scraps at the same time. Go to Lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz
    • The downloadable Easy Choice Family Kai meal planner shows how to shop for and make dinner for a family of six for only $65 a week, with zero food waste. Go to https://lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz/easy-choice-meal-planner/

    Fresh food rescue organisations operating during Level 2

    Reusable cups and containers

    Reusable cups and containers accepted by cafes and supermarkets during Level 2

    • Provided the containers can be refilled in a contactless manner, cafes and supermarkets may choose to allow their use. The Ministry of Health is not providing specific advice about the use of these containers.
    • It remains the choice of the individual cafe owner or supermarket to decide if they are happy to accept the cups and containers, based on their assessment of the risk and their contactless processes. 
    • Where possible a dishwasher should be used to clean the cup or container before reuse. Go to A guide for how to serve a coffee in a reusable cup

    Bulk bins and refilleries

    Supermarkets and grocery store use of bulk bins and refilleries under Level 2

    • Supermarkets and grocery stores can continue to use their bulk bins provided individual businesses are satisfied the risks related to contamination of the bin lids and other high touch surfaces are being managed effectively.

    Industrial and commercial rubbish

    Under Level 2 most construction sites can continue to work

    Garden rubbish

    Managing garden rubbish during Level 2

    • Garden green waste is usually compostable at home. 
    • Large volumes of green waste will need to be dropped at a composting plant drop off or transfer station. Please check your council website to see whether your local drop off or transfer station is accepting green waste under level 2. If not you should keep any associated green waste on site until the Level 2 period has ended.  
    • Lawn clippings can be mulched and distributed across the lawn. Check to see if your lawnmower can mulch instead of catching. 
      Mulching/chipping equipment can be hired under Level 2 and it makes great ground cover or compost if you are confident to safely operate this type of machinery.

    Para Kore

    What whānau can do to continue para kore (zero waste) during the Covid-19 period

    • We encourage whānau to be active kaitiaki during this period. Remembering or learning skills like gardening, composting and cooking kai from scratch. 
    • While the rāhui is having a huge impact on how we live and what we do, let's look after our whānau, both immediate and extended during this time. Let's create ways of connecting, whakawhanaungatanga with physical distancing.
    • Let's care for Papatūānuku. Think about how we do things at home, and at work too. Let’s reflect and create new habits - new tikanga that help us care for te taiao. 
    • For more information on how to live without waste go to facebook.com/para kore or parakore.maori.nz.

    Rural communities

    If there is no rubbish collection in your rural area

    • Check your local council website or contact their call centre. Some councils have temporary solutions in place and every council has its own guidance.

    If there is no recycling collection in your rural area, what you can do with recycling

    • Check your local council website or contact the call centre. Some councils have solutions in place and every council has its own guidance.

    Burning rubbish or recycling

    • It is not safe to burn plastic rubbish or recycling due to the toxic fumes generated, which can be dangerous to those with asthma or other respiratory illnesses. 
    • The New Zealand Fire Service has requested that households and rural businesses do not burn rubbish or recycling, as it is important to minimise the need for volunteer fire fighters being called out during this Covid-19 period.
      https://www.fireandemergency.nz/news-and-media/hold-off-lighting-outdoor-fires-during-the-covid-19-lockdown/
    • Many councils have bylaws prohibiting the burning of rubbish. Paper and cardboard can be composted onsite. 

    Burying rubbish or recycling

    • Food scraps and garden trimmings can be safely buried or composted. Other types of rubbish and recycling should not be buried. Plastic does not rot and burying waste can produce leachate, which is when water and other liquids pick up heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides or undesirable nutrients. This leachate can potentially affect local water supplies, aquatic life and/or farm stock.

    If you do not have internet, how to find out more about what to do in your area

    • Most regional newspapers are providing essential service information pages during the Covid-19 period.
    • Or, phone your local council, or ask a family member to check your council internet website or social media page. 

    Dumping/fly-tipping

    If you see someone dumping rubbish

    • Please report it to your local council.

    Why dumping/fly-tipping is so bad

    • Illegal dumping can pose health and safety risks to people. For example, metal and glass can cause accidents and green waste can create a fire risk. Also, illegal dumping can have negative impacts on the environment. For example, plastic rubbish can harm wildlife, especially in marine areas and harmful substances can leach into waterways.

    Cleaning up the house or section

    If you’ve cleaned out the garage, got lots of junk to get rid of, where you can dispose it

    • Many resource recovery centres, secondhand shops and charity shops are open under Level 2. Please check with them (go on their website or social media page first) to find out their current process for accepting goods, as these may have changed since the Covid-19 period began. 
    • Please do not dump old clothing or other discarded items outside charity shops. These items can create a health hazard and add a cost burden for waste disposal to charities. 
    • For items that cannot be reused or recycled, many transfer stations across New Zealand are open where contactless payment, contact tracing and other health and safety measures are in place. 
    • However, transfer stations in some areas may remain closed to the general public and/or only provide a limited range of drop off services. 
    • The need of social distancing may slow down transfer station operations and generate long queues. Please be patient or wait until Level 1. 
    • Please check your local council website or social media page for more information about transfer station services in your area. 
    Reviewed:
    02/09/20