The state of plastics
More than 75% of the material used in Aotearoa New Zealand goes to landfill.
The government is phasing out some single-use plastics and hard-to-recycle food and drink packaging by 2025. The phase-out is happening over three stages, beginning with easier-to-replace items. It can’t happen soon enough.
Aotearoa New Zealand generates 17.49 million tonnes of waste each year, with an estimated 12.59 million tonnes sent to landfill. This punctuates the resources and business opportunities being thrown away and, of course, the amount of damage being inflicted on the environment. In 2019, the waste sector contributed around 4% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions and around 9% of biogenic methane emissions, see reference.
According to a study, of the waste going to landfill, plastics account for 308,169 tonnes.1 Only 45,000 tonnes of plastic is collected for recycling.
Yet Aotearoa New Zealand is importing 570,000 tonnes of raw resins and plastic materials. That includes 1,200 tonnes of recycled polypropylene (PP) annually. What’s so special about PP? Not only is virgin PP recyclable, but its applications range from everyday products that we use – such as food packaging – to providing a medical-grade material that can withstand steam sterilization for reuse. It can also be recycled with other #5 plastics.
So it has value right now. In fact, the current market value of pelletized, recycled PP is between NZ $1,300 and $1,700 per tonne.
Only around half of PP is being collected – although an improvement on previous years – and the rest is going to landfill. (The figure is actually 67%, with 50% going to landfill directly and 17% due to contamination, see study). Clearly, consumers and commercial customers need better education about recyclable materials.
Where does PP fit in the Circular Economy?
As the world moves towards a Circular Economy, New Zealand must be prepared. In the Circular Economy, waste is no longer generated, or rather, it’s minimized. Every product will eventually have an end-of-life or end-of-need at some point. But this is where the Circular Economy comes in. Everything is shared, repaired, reused, and as a last resort, recycled.
Each time any plastic is recycled, its properties degrade. Too many plastics can only be recycled once. PP can be recycled four times. The material is often made – ironically – into recycling bins. Other popular applications include plant pots, storage boxes, building foundations, and road stabilization. Some of these uses could count as the closed loop that the Circular Economy is trying to achieve.
Until manufacturers adopt alternative materials or processes to replace plastics altogether, PP must be recycled. Once it goes into landfill, it takes 20 to 30 years to break down.
Aotearoa New Zealand exports about 18% of pcr (post consumer) PP. That, coupled with the amount of pcrPP going to landfill means that the country is losing between $8.45m to $14.9m of potential value.
Yet Aotearoa New Zealand imports 1200 tonnes of recycled PP already mentioned. That’s completely unnecessary – especially when Aotearoa New Zealand not only has pcrPP, but the means to recycle it. Creating this recycled PP “economy” would be worth $10.4m and $17m annually.
To that end, more than 88% of local authorities are now collecting PP. Only eight are not, despite the demand from manufacturers.
Reporting will become more stringent
In 2021, the Ministry for the Environment announced the need to improve their data availability, accessibility and quality. The results would give them the evidence, and therefore enable the insight, to develop and evaluate policy and interventions. Better data would give them a baseline for understanding the effects of changes over time, while also helping them to monitor compliance.
Tonnage was already required for waste going into Class 1 landfills. Tonnage for transfer stations and Construction & Demolition waste were added in 2022, New reporting requirements (since January 2023) include tonnage reporting for industrial monofils and other sites taking materials from earthworks, etc.
Regulations being developed that you need to be ready for include activity-source reporting of waste. That is, how the waste was produced (household, C&D, etc.). Additional reporting will be required by territorial authorities, who, of course, will require it of waste & recycling companies.
How to respond to changing demands
Waste & recycling companies still working with paper processes risk being driven out of business, if they’re not already experiencing problems. Certainly it will be impossible to experience growth. Paper processes are too time consuming and inefficient, especially with new reporting requirements.
Those that have already started their digital journey need to progress it. Digital technologies generate data in real time. Those technologies can be sensors on vehicles and waste containers, a device with artificial intelligence that can read a material’s composition and spot contamination – or it can be software that operates on the cloud, vs on site.
You can connect every area of your business to collect data, giving you a deep dive into what’s really happening in your business at any given moment. This gives you insight that informs your decisions. It makes you agile, able to adapt to changes in regulations and trends, getting a jump on companies slow to adopt digital processes.
Examples of digitalization at work
Digital technologies make you more efficient. Start with a cloud-based platform designed specifically for waste management or recycling like the AMCS Platform. Your platform is your digital ecosystem – the launchpad for growing your business. We’ve been talking about recycling, so what could a platform focused on recycling do? Not all are the same. Always go with a best-in-class solution. This will enable significant management controls, transport planning, fleet management, driver interaction in real time, consistent maintenance in customer relationships and so much more.
Your platform should support your end-to-end processes, automating and optimizing, such as inbound material grading to give just one example. You want the ability to increase ROI from each asset through tracking and weighing technology.
A good platform will be the foundation that enables you to add the technologies as you see fit, cutting day-to-day operational costs, including fuel, mileage and resource overtime.
You can hand drivers a mobile device that stores their documentation, lets them record proof of service with photographic evidence, capture digital signatures and send that paperwork to you immediately. An invoice can automatically be prepared and sent so that you get paid faster and keep your cash flow healthy. Add a customer portal, and customers can self serve and pay online, dramatically reducing calls to your customer service team.
By using modular solutions, you can grow into digitalization. Once you start, you’ll see the benefits and want to continue. The use of AI will lead to incredible cost benefits. The data you collect will make your reporting quick, easy and accurate. Needless to say – but we’ll say it anyway – having digital processes in place also makes your business far more attractive for government tenders.
It’s the same for waste management. You can add modules one at a time.
Consider route planning, which is a typically complex process. By using a route planner designed with powerful algorithms, you can simplify the entire planning process and provide drivers with the most efficient routes possible, taking into account factors such as speed, peak driving times, and traffic incidents, just to name a few. (Add navigation to guide them along the way, reducing their stress and giving them confidence.)
You can perform daily route optimization with complete new order pools and more. This simple addition to your processes can result in significant efficiencies. To give you an idea of what’s possible when you use a best-in-class solution, users of AMCS Route Planner report these reductions:
- Time spent on planning Up to 90%
- Number of vehicles needed Up to 25%
- Number of driver shifts Up to 25%
- Number of miles Up to 30%
- Driving time UP to 30%
- CO2 emissions Up to 30%
Download the Route Planner brochure below to learn more.
More efficiencies translate to lower operating costs and wider margins. And because we’re talking about cloud-based solutions, there’s no huge upfront investment. Start small. Grow. But most importantly, start now.
This should be the beginning of an exciting journey for you. One step at a time. AMCS can help. Get in touch and let’s talk about the possibilities and how you can get there.
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