Waste: what is it good for?

Absolutely nothing! Well, unless it’s appropriately managed! There is a lot of confusion around the bins currently available. Although the recycling infrastructure in the Lakes District is restrained, this is something we still want to get right.

If you’re looking for waste reduction ideas targeting plastic reduction is always a good place to start, there are heaps of helpful resources out there like Plastic Free July, and a bunch of great individuals out there educating people like The Rubbish Trip. They also have a very useful zero waste shopping guide based on what's available in Queenstown and Arrowtown, Wanaka and Hawea. 

Another resource we love is the self-explanatory graph by Learning Fundamentals below:


As part of The Queenstown Lakes District, our recycling infrastructure includes three commercial waste bins: Glass recycling, mixed recycling and landfill. Here is a guide of what you can and can't put in each bins (this guide has been created based on this QLDC link):


BLUE (Glass Recycling)

  • Glass bottles
  • Glass jars


YELLOW (Mixed Recycling)

  • Clean cardboard (including pizza boxes and egg cartons),
  • Paper products (Cannot have had food or grease on it, with the exception of pizza boxes only),
  • Topless plastic containers (marked 1-7) including meat trays,
  • Topless plastic bottles (marked 1-7),
  • Cans (aluminium and steel)


RED (Landfill)


Any soiled cardboard and paper products

Tetra paks

Soft plastics

Other kinds of glass (not bottles or jars)

Coffee cups


Dirty items (nappies etc)



  • No lids in recycling or glass bins – regardless of marking, type or source, ALL LIDS GO INTO THE RED/GENERAL WASTE BIN
  • Cleanliness – Food waste left on recycling is gross, a lot of this stuff is stockpiled then sorted by hand – meaning by the time it’s attended to what you left in your recycling bin is well and truly foul. A particular problem is meat residue left on meat trays, this rots and attracts vermin like roaches and rats.
  • Contaminated cardboard and paper – cardboard that has food residue (even oil) on it must go in the general waste (with the specific exception of pizza boxes).
  • Hopeful Recycling – where you want something to be recyclable so put it in the recycle bin in case MAYBE it can be. All of these items are contamination, enough contamination means the whole load (and I mean the whole truck load) is in-efficient to recycle à it gets dumped in landfill with the general waste, even though there are lots of actually valuable recyclable products mixed in. IF YOU’RE UNSURE CONFIRM WITH RESOURCES OR PUT IT IN THE GENERAL WASTE. You can access the Waste Management NZ website in this link to find out more details.



A good rule of hand is anything smaller than a palm is difficult to recycle and best put in the Red bin– the symbols are hard to check, these items tend to get stuck in corners, blow away in the wind and can’t be effectively stored – making the process less efficient (and hence less economically viable) and more likely to make recycling classed as contaminated.

It sucks to hear it, but by putting something in the recycling bin that isn’t recyclable in the Wakatipu, you’re sabotaging everyone else’s effort; and vice versa, your neighbours' bin ends up in the same truck load as yours!

Plastics 1 & 2 are the most easily recyclable plastics, if your plastic bottles/containers are made from this then they’re more likely to be recycled.

AluminIum and steel cans are quite well recycled, steel because it can be sorted magnetically, and aluminIum because it’s actually a valuable material for recyclers.

Yes but what about…

Green waste and food waste: The Queenstown Lakes District Council has a full page on home composting. You can get a subsidised bokashi bin from the QLDC office. Check out with your local council if they have options like that too!



Hopefully this has been educational, but also made you more aware of how narrow recycling is and how easily it is sabotaged. Recycling is not the solution to our waste, it’s helpful but we cannot rely on it. Below is a very quick introduction to the 6R (+1) system of Refuse, Replace, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot and Residual waste framework. You’ll be familiar with the middle part of that, but our waste problem starts when we first pick it up, hence the extension.

The key idea is that your waste stream volume is reducing as you descend down these R practices, it’s not a bottom heavy method. The first step is refusal, if you can’t refuse it then think about replacing it, and so on and so forth!

Waste isn’t an individual problem (industry and commercial waste is massive) but we can drive individual solutions.


Please be kind to the planet, tread lightly and strive towards no waste!


by Ailsa Carroll, Sustainability Coordinator at Camp Glenorchy.

Posted by Camp Glenorchy on August 01, 2019

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