How to use your Three Bins - for Dummies

by Gina Dempster - Jul 08, 2019

Even brain surgeons and people with a PHD have questions about our new Three Bin waste and recycling system. Some of us are trying to make it up as we go along, some have done all the research but still have questions and some of us don't have a clue. Fortunately Gina Dempster from the wonderful Wanaka Wastebusters has all the answers - for dummies and experts alike. Tip Number #1 - children can't be recycled!


Did you put your new recycling wheelie bin out this week? And did you know what to put in it? 1st July was the start date for our new collections, and most streets had the correct recycling bins out – so that’s a win for our district! If you’re still a little confused, don’t worry. Shifting habits takes a little bit of thought at the start, but it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

Just in case you don’t have one of those really handy husbands/wives or neighbours who always read the instructions and tells you what to do, here’s a rundown on how to use the new bins.

Nearly everyone will have two new recycling bins (yellow and blue) and one new rubbish bin (red). Apologies to anyone who was missed during the initial bin deliveries - if you haven’t already talked to QLDC customer services, give them a call on 03 441 0499 (Queenstown) or 03 443 0024 (Wanaka). Waste Management will deliver your bins in the week, once you’ve been added to the list.

What goes in my blue recycling bin?


The blue bin is the easiest to remember. Only glass bottles and glass jars go in the blue recycling bin. Nothing else – no lids and no other type of glass. No rubbish and no recycling. Glass recycling is very sensitive to contamination, so it’s up to all of us to look after it and make sure our glass can be recycled.

Food contamination attracts rats to recycling centres. If your jars are sticky or dirty (eg with jam, peanut butter or tomato paste) give them a rinse before putting them in the bin. I rinse soft drink and juice bottles too, as they can attract wasps in the summer, but I don’t bother rinsing beer bottles or wine bottles. Labels stay on the bottles, as they get removed during the recycling process.

Any glass other than bottles and jars has to be put in the rubbish bin, including drinking glasses, heat-proof glass and window glass. Although these types of glass look the same to us, they have a different chemical composition to glass bottles and jars and cause problems during recycling. Lids, crockery and general rubbish also cause problems in the glass recycling process, so make sure you put them in the rubbish.

What goes in my yellow bin?


All your other recycling (cardboard, paper, cans, tins, plastic bottles 1-7 and plastic containers 1-7) goes in the big yellow mixed recycling bin. Rinse out any tins and cans to avoid attracting rats or hatching maggots. Make sure the plastic containers have a recycling number (1-7) on the bottom before putting them in the yellow bin.

We need our recycling to be clean and uncontaminated. Real recycling is about quality, not quantity so if in doubt, leave it out.

Don’t put any food or food-contaminated materials in your recycling bin (eg pizza boxes with left-over crusts or big greasy marks on the bottom). Food waste should be composted if you can, or otherwise put it in the rubbish bin. Lids go in the rubbish bin too, as they don’t fit into the sorting and baling systems that we rely on for our recycling.

What goes in my red bin?


The red bin is for rubbish. We need to keep contamination out of our recycling bins, so if you’re not sure whether something can be recycled, please put it in the rubbish bin.

Some of the most common contaminants in recycling bins are coffee cups, tetra pak, soft plastics, plastic bags and aerosols. They all go in the rubbish bin because they can’t be recycled. Lids go in the rubbish bin too. An important message here for parents of young children - please do NOT put nappies in your recycling bin. As all us parents know, nappies that have been festering for a while are pretty gross to deal with, especially if you’re not deeply connected to the child that was wearing them. Nappies, like all your other rubbish, go in the rubbish bin.

One of the main causes of house fires is hot ashes, so make sure you only add them to your rubbish bin once they are cold. There are some hazardous materials (chemicals, lithium batteries and gas bottles) which shouldn’t go in your rubbish bin because they have the potential to start a fire or cause a toxic leak. The QLDC website shows you how to dispose of those materials safely.

 When do I put my bins out?


Fail! This bin wasn't collected because it contains polystyrene which can't be recycled through your kerbside bin. Lids should also be shut flat.

Rubbish bins are collected every week.

Recycling collections alternate, so each recycling bin will be picked up once a fortnight. If you put out the wrong recycling bin, it won’t be picked up. That’s not because you’re being punished; it’s because glass and mixed recycling are going to two separate places so we can’t mix them up in the same truck. Mixed recycling is taken to the big sorting machine in Queenstown to be sorted and baled. Glass is taken directly to bunkers in Queenstown and Wanaka. From there, it’s transported to the O-I factory in Auckland to be made into new bottles and jars.

There are a few ways to keep track of which recycling bin to put out. You will have received a two-year recycling calendar in your welcome pack to put on the fridge or notice-board. If you threw yours out, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. You can pick up a new calendar at the council offices.

If you prefer to outsource to your phone’s brain, you can sign up for text or email reminders. Reminders will be sent to your phone the day before your collection day. You can sign up by putting your address into the reminder registration at the QLDC website here:

The collection day for some areas has changed as part of the new service. Check for the wee sticker in the welcome pack to find out what your collection day is. You can also view an online calendar by typing your address in here.

What should I do with my old bins?

For Wakatipu residents – your old blue recycling bin and rubbish bin can no longer be used for recycling now the new collections have started. Even though the blue recycling wheelie bin looks similar to your old blue mixed recycling bin, you have to switch to the new blue bin for glass recycling. If you put out your old blue recycling bin, it will be left unemptied at the kerbside. You can either re-purpose your old bins or drop them off at Frankton transfer station to be recycled.

For Wanaka and Upper Clutha residents – your old recycling crates and blue bags can’t be used now the new service has started. You can keep your old recycling crates to reuse them yourself or drop them off at Wastebusters for someone else to reuse.

You’re now officially..

A recycling superstar! Yes, if you’ve read this far, you’ll be the person who can help your family, friends and neighbours figure out how to use the new system properly. And it’s important to have recycling superstars on board, so we can work together to save as much of our district’s stuff as possible from landfill.

The shake-up in recycling worldwide has shown that recycling has not always lived up to its name. We know that ourselves in our district. It’s a time of change for everyone involved in recycling, and although the journey is a bit painful, it had to happen as the recycling industry matures and becomes more transparent.

There’s a new focus on reducing contamination in recycling, which is encouraging. Councils around the country (and the world) are trying to figure out how to reduce contamination to much lower levels. Our district could lead the way, and it all starts with us at home putting the right things in the right bins.

If you have any questions about whether specific items can be recycled, email me on [email protected]




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