What happens to my recycling?
Step 1 - Pick up
Your recycling is picked up by Auckland Council and taken for sorting at a Materials Recovery Facility.
Step 2 - Sorting
Wrong items like plastic bags, clothing, batteries and food scraps are removed by hand. This makes sure that we only recover the materials that can be recycled.
Step 3 - Separation
Most of our recycling is sorted at an automated facility. Paper and cardboard is separated with a vibrating machine while metal items are removed using magnets or an eddy current. Optical scanners identify different types of plastic. All that’s left is the glass, which is sorted by colour. Once your recycling is sorted, it’s sold to make new products in New Zealand as well as overseas.
Where does my recycling go?
Glass is recycled in New Zealand. It’s mainly turned into bottles and jars but can also be made into what’s known as ‘glasscrete’ and ‘glassphalt’, which is a material used in road building.
Paper and cardboard can be made into newsprint, writing paper, tissue, corrugated cardboard, egg cartons and fruit trays. This is done in New Zealand as well as Asia.
Our plastic is sent to Australia, China and Southeast Asia to be made into just about anything plastic can be made in to, which is a lot! Buckets, polyester fibre and wheelie bins are just some of the new forms our plastic takes.
Aluminium is used to make new aerosol and drink cans, while steel is made into food cans, wire and building materials in New Zealand and Asia.
So why does New Zealand export recyclable materials?
Since New Zealand has a relatively small population, we don’t generate a lot of recyclable material so there’s not as much demand for recycling processing facilities in this country.
Countries such as China, however, have big industries and small amounts of readily available raw materials, creating a high demand for recyclables.
Even though exporting our recyclables overseas means that they need to be transported further, it’s often a better environmental option than using raw materials.
Watch: where Auckland's recycling goes
As our city grows, so does the amount of waste we’re producing. Aucklanders send around 230,000 tonnes of waste to landfills each year. Find out where it goes and more about the equipment used to sort it.
Click here to view the video.