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War On Plastic Bottles!

Yesterday’s Council meeting was hilarious, without actually inspiring mirth.

It was called for the purpose of adopting the 2019/20 Annual Plan (which deviated by just .81% over the LTP increase of 4.13% increase already adopted for 2019/20). The increase proposed accordingly aggregates to an average of 4.94%). As explained in my earlier post, the .81% increase is just short of the 1% that would have triggered further consultation. 

The silent laughter – at least from where I was sitting, came when in the only animated part of proceedings Clrs McLean and Fox launched into an attack of the failure of Council to adopt more pro-active policies regarding the removal of plastic bottles from the waste -stream on the Peninsula.

I say hilarious, because I have heard nothing but silence from these two during the entire time that our Council has concerned itself about matters environmental. Yesterday, by contrast, we had Clr McLean loudly lecture the room on the evils of PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) milk bottles in particular, and plastic bottles in general,

Both he and Clr Fox indicated that they would be unlikely to rest until all these bottles had been replaced by glass, aluminum, and plastic bags for milk – something that Clr McLean had observed during his recent holiday in Canada, He illustrated his lecture with an estimate, using his fingers, of the relative size of a compressed used plastic bag.

Milk processors will be thrilled when told that their investment in PET bottle filling equipment will now need to be replaced with plastic bag technology, but would plastic bags be the answer, and pass muster with the anti-bag brigade? – Somehow I doubt it - I recall them being used for a time decades ago in outback Australia, prior to the advent of the PET bottles. .

Nevertheless, it is a grand day for our District, and our Council when suddenly councilors (well at least McLean and Fox on this occasion) are recognizing the need to really do something about the plastic waste stream, now that China and Malaysia are saying - “enough – take your waste somewhere else, or preferably treat it yourself.”

There was a stunned silence from others in the room, and I recalled having earlier drawn attention to the fact that the waste management companies, including Smart, actually contracted to dispose of all of the waste. Their pleas now for Government intervention, and funding of the means by which to dispose of plastic is classical capitalism at work - "You fund the losses, and we'll take the profits." 

But Mayor Sandra then weighed in with reports from the Mayoral Forum regarding real (?) progress that is being made in regard to incineration – principally, and of interest to us, around the currently redundant Meremere plant. Sweden has apparently developed highly sophisticated technology to overcome previous objections, but whether this includes capture of CO2 remains moot.

Separation of the milk bottles from the stream may be the only other solution to their recycling into albeit, lower value, or perhaps road surfacing products as recently publicized. This may be the only hope for dealing with the growing PET mountain, and will  surely require a levy that will add to the cost of milk, but consumers simply cannot expect a ‘free-ride’ in this regard.

Unlike soft-drink products, milk bottles are seldom thrown away – nearly all appear to come back into the system, thus obviating the need for a deposit as appears necessary in regard to the former.

Thus, Clr McLean and Fox may yet see their dream of a plastic-free Peninsula. I for one hope so, and applaud their new-found enthusiasm – it is remarkable how public-spirited, previously hidden sentiments can be revealed immediately prior to an election. 




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Reader Comments (3)

Hi Bill,

I hadn't heard that Meremere was being proposed for rubbish incineration.

That plant isn't redundant: it's scrap. It was carefully mothballed in the nineties, but somewhere along the line, someone in accounts saw the line item for running the heater placed in each boiler and ordered that they be turned off. The resulting condensation destroyed the boilers, and from what I hear they'll never boil again. If anyone wants to use that plant for getting rid of rubbish, they're essentially proposing building it again from scratch. Or they're lying, perish the thought...

July 3, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterChris Longson

I think that they are proposing totally new technology that would mean totally replacing the current 'scrap' as you call it. But I have no idea really as to what is being proposed - the discussion in Council was very vague.

July 4, 2019 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

Many years ago there was an excellent proposal put up by a company called Olivine (I think) that proposed taking rubbish from a very wide area and burning it at Meremere - producing no pollution from the stack and ending up with an inert clinker like material - but it was objected too by locals in the area and so did not go beyond the proposal stage.
This district ought to be seriously considering whatever incineration options are available as part of the long term solution to the increasing volumes of rubbish the communities are trapped into producing. No doubt nay-sayers will sight all manner of objections, but surely technology has overcome whatever problems may have existed with incineration in the past?
Or are we happy with the ridiculous notion that we can rest easy now that we have banned (some) single use plastic bags?

July 8, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

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