The Waitaki Resource Recovery Park has been forced to introduce a “nominal” charge for all domestic recycling, primarily as a result of a significant drop in income from recycling sent overseas, Waitaki Resource Recovery Trust manager Dave Clare says.
The charge of $1, for any amount of all forms of domestic recycling including paper, cardboard and glass, came into effect on Wednesday.
Mr Clare said the charge was brought in due to what he described as the “current global situation affecting recycling”, particularly cardboard and paper, which meant the trust received less income from what it sent to be recycled offshore, coupled with facing rising costs.
“For the previous six months, our return on cardboard – which is our bread and butter – has dropped 60%,” he said.
“Our prices are worked out quarterly by the buyer, and in our current quarter, they’ve dropped a further 24%, which has affected our income at the park dramatically.
“Paper is even worse – it’s dropped 80% on the previous six months, and the current return they want to charge us is $61 a tonne to recycle it.”
The situation with plastic was no better, as many countries in Asia, where the bulk of the world’s recycling is sent, no longer accepted plastic for recycling as their ports and recycling centres were at full capacity.
“We are still finding markets, but the return because of the world trying to dump product wherever they can .. it’s become pretty difficult.”
Lower income and higher costs associated with recycling were not the only reasons why the fee had been introduced.
A recent rise in the minimum wage, which now sat at $16.50 an hour, had also been a factor, Mr Clare said.
“The latest minimum wage increase added $28,000 to our wage bill.
“That, with declining returns, means we’ve had to bite the bullet and for the first time add a charge, which we hate to do.
“It was done with great reluctance, but it was done out of necessity. We are trying to minimise costs to the ratepayer, but we have to recover costs or we will become a drain on the council.”
According to the Waitaki District Council’s 2018-24 waste management and minimisation plan, the trust received $270,000 each year in funding.
Mr Clare did not expect the charge would discourage recycling and said the Waitaki district was considered a national leader in terms of the amount of product recycled per capita.
To the year ending June 30, the trust diverted about 88% of what it received away from landfills, which saved the district just over $774,000.
Charges for residual rubbish had also gone up due to increased costs for disposal in Dunedin.
The trust had not passed on the full 34% increase in its costs when the former Oamaru landfill in Tamar St closed last year, Mr Clare said.