LISTEN TO MALCOLM EVERTS TALK WITH MIKE YARDLEY ABOVE
Shoppers are being advised to throw away their soft plastics along with waste following the country's processing plants having hit recycling capacity.
Soft plastics collection throughout the country has been suspended until April, though no date has been given as to exactly when it will resume.
Social media users are debating the topic online and many can't bring themselves to send the plastic to landfill, instead opting to hoard the waste.
Packaging Forum chairman Malcolm Everts said the scheme had been inundated with soft plastic which is why the it had implemented a hold on collection since December, removing collection bins located throughout the country.
Processing of the waste first came to a halt in December when the Melbourne-based processing plant it shipped excess waste to stopped accepting New Zealand plastic when China shut the doors on international plastic waste imports.
Soft plastic can be recycled and turned into park benches, bollards, decking, plastic posts and ducting for electric cables and fibre wiring, but Everts warned storing the waste until collection resumes could result in contamination.
"We would advise people to put their soft plastics in the waste bin during this period to reduce risk of stored material becoming contaminated, making it a health risk and unsuitable for processing," Everts said.
Many soft plastics collection bins which were previously located in New World, Pak 'N Save and Countdown supermarkets, among other stores such as The Warehouse and Briscoes, have recently been removed - much to shoppers disapproval.
One Facebook user suggested shoppers offload plastic waste to supermarkets and that they become accountable for it, given they had generated a lot of it.
"Perhaps we just dump it there," one woman wrote.
"The supermarkets aren't making any change in regards to packaging [anyway]."
The Packaging Forum's soft plastic processing plants are located in Levin and Waiuku. Processing at other private locations are also being trailed.
The recycling scheme began in November 2015 and since then it has processed around 400 tonnes of soft plastic - the equivalent of 100 million plastic bags.
Everts said the recycled material was previously limited to use for making park benches and bollards but is now commonly used in rural applications to cover wires and has other specialist uses such as on organic vineyards as fence posts.
From April, The Packaging Forum will reset the scheme. Everts said it would not go back to how it was with collections at hundreds of stores.
"We will only collect enough as we have processing capacity for," he said.
"We need to restart in a phased approach. What we're proposing is, like the original trial, starting off in a few areas and rebuilding and keeping it in capacity."
Auckland produces the most soft plastic waste, Everts said.
Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Laird said the company would reinstate the collection bins if The Packaging Forum's demand and supply situation changes.
"Foodstuffs is right behind the Packaging Forum in expanding the market for this challenging material and would be happy to recommence collection and recycling if the demand and supply situation changes."
Countdown has been approached for comment.