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NZ Waste & Recycling Statistics

Minimising plastic waste

  • At least 50% of plastic packaging sent to New Zealand landfills is imported (PacNZ, 2002).
  • In-house recycling of plastic by manufacturers, where offcuts and production waste is reground and reused in the same or similar products, ensured 9,439 tonnes of plastics were reused in 2001 by the NZ plastics industry (PNZ, 2002).
  • Plastic waste from manufacture in New Zealand makes up only 1% of material used (PNZ, 2002).


  • Each New Zealander consumes approximately 31 kg of plastic packaging per year and recycles 5.58kg (MfE, 2002).
  • Over 60% of New Zealanders have access to community recycling and this is rapidly growing (MfE, 2002).
  • The Government aims for 95% of the population to have access to recycling facilities by 2005 (MfE,2002).
  • Plastic recycling has more than doubled over the last 5 years (PNZ, 2002).
  • In 2002 New Zealanders recycled 30,190 tonnes of plastic (PNZ, 2003).
  • 25-30% of PET (1) and HDPE (2) packaging produced in NZ is recovered (PNZ, 2002).
  • Our plastic packaging recycling rate (18%) is comparable with Australia (17%) and with most European countries which range from 7% to 22%. Germany (31.1%) and Ireland (3%) are at the extreme.


  • Plastic makes up 7% of New Zealand's waste stream by weight.
  • Because plastics are lighter than many materials, by volume we estimate they may use up to 20% of landfill space.
  • Approx 190,000 tonnes of plastic waste is disposed of to New Zealand landfills each year (PEAG, 97).

Want to know more about New Zealand's efforts in recycling and waste management? Read about the New Zealand Plastics Sustainability Initiative, and the New Zealand Waste Strategy.


A Word on Litter
Did you know plastic makes up only 7% of New Zealand's rubbish by weight? So why do we see it everywhere? Plastic is so light it blows around and it is so durable it just lasts and lasts. The very properties that make it good for the environment - lightness and durability - make it a potential litter problem.

The solution? Here's five rules on plastic litter to help you.

  1. Pick it up
  2. Recycle it
  3. Or put it in a bin
  4. Be responsible for your neighbourhood
  5. Think global and act local.

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