What a load of rubbish! Recycling Week 2017

The 5th annual New Zealand Recycling Week takes place this year from 6 to 12 November. It's a great opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on our environmental footprints and the resources we use in our daily lives.  This blog gives a brief overview of waste management in New Zealand and suggests a number of resources and tools you can use to raise awareness during Recycling Week 2017. 

LoveNZ recycling sign

Recycling sign in New Zealand CC0 1.0

Waste-wise across Aotearoa

Developed countries have seen a dramatic increase in waste production in recent decades for two major reasons.

  • Increased access to materials and products has increased our levels of consumption of food, material products and demand for new technology.
  • Just about everything we consume comes to us unsustainably packaged in some way.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to say exactly how much waste is produced in New Zealand today, due to decentralised waste management systems and inconsistent reporting requirements. The most recent national data on waste disposal available from Statistics New Zealand is from 2006, and at that time landfilling was the most common method of solid waste disposal. According to those figures, it is estimated that 3.2 million tonnes of waste were sent to municipal landfills in 2006. That's a lot of rubbish!

However, in the last 20 years, access to recycling facilities has grown considerably, meaning those figures are not likely to be accurate. Unfortunately, that lack of data has resulted in some bad press for New Zealand. For example, according to the OECD's Environment at a Glance 2015, New Zealand recycles the least amount of waste of OECD countries — 0%!

Table showing municipal waste and recovery across OECD countries. All New Zealand's waste goes to landfillOECD (2015), Municipal waste, OECD Environment Statistics (database).

Of course, we know this isn't true. However, we do certainly produce a lot of waste. According to recycle.co.nz, while waste management is a global problem, some countries are better than others at managing the consequences of waste production. Europe is leading the way in avoiding waste to landfills and we could learn a great deal from their initiatives here in New Zealand.

Why recycle?

Here are some reasons why recycling is good for us and the environment.


  • conserves resources by converting used materials into new products
  • uses less energy than producing new products from raw materials — even including associated costs like transport
  • helps protect the environment by reducing the need for mining, logging, refining and processing raw materials, which reduces pollution as well as degradation of ecosystems
  • reduces landfill when recyclable materials are reprocessed.

The video The importance of recycling in NZ gives a good overview of why New Zealanders should recycle.

Recycling and the New Zealand curriculum

New Zealand’s national curriculum focuses on 21st century learning, ensuring learners are equipped to participate in and contribute to their own society and the wider world. An important aspect of this is encouraging students to consider significant future-focused issues such as sustainability. 
— The Ministry of Education

Education for sustainability is an important underpinning value in the New Zealand curriculum. In particular, the curriculum focuses on sustainability and issues including climate change, resource management, and biodiversity. Recycling and waste management are key concepts across many aspects of a sustainability-focused curriculum. There are a number of practical ways to can embed recycling education into your classroom activities to meet curriculum requirements.

Celebrating Recycling Week 2017 — activities and ideas

Recycling week

There are heaps of ways to celebrate Recycling Week this year. In schools, you can: 

Resources for teaching and learning

Services to Schools and AnyQuestions have a variety of resources that may be useful to you during Recycling Week 2017.

Environmental Issues — Topic Explorer Set

Recycling — Many Answers

The following websites also provide useful information and resources:

Recycling in your community

It's easy to connect with services and resources for recycling in your community. Here are a few places to get started:

  • Op shops — donate unneeded goods or purchase second-hand items.
  • Salvation Army — 16,000 tonnes is saved from landfills each year through shopping at Salvation Army Family Stores!
  • Community Recycling Network — an organisation helping to build networks for recycling.

Recycling stories

Michael Recycle — Read aloud from KidTimeStoryTime:

Charlie and Lola — Look after your planet from Keeping the kids quiet!:

Recycling at Campbells Bay Primary School — a project to find out about recycling in Auckland's North Shore and at Campbells Bay Primary School.

Kids create wearable art from trash — all you need are some Milo lids or old hessian to create a work of art.

Plastic waste into something useful — how Lionel Taito-Matamua is finding a new use for plastic waste in Samoa in 3D printers.

Your stories

Tell us what you did in your school for recycling week, or share with us your school story for Recycling Week!

By Nicole Gaston

Nicole is an Online Content Services Developer for Services to Schools.

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