Burned recycling waste now bound for landfill

At least 100 tonnes of stockpiled plastic and paper are headed to landfill after being destroyed in a massive blaze at a Coromandel recycling plant.

The fire at the recycling and timber plant was visible from about 20km away. Photo: RNZ / Supplied

A at the Smart Environmental recycling plant near Thames, destroying a massive pile of unprocessed waste.

At its height, at least 100 firefighters battled the blaze, which was visible from about 20km away.

The blaze started after compost at the site overheated and embers were blown onto timber waiting to be processed, which then spread to a shed full of paper and plastics.

Smart Environmental director Grahame Christian said the burned waste included paper and plastic that had been stockpiled after China banned waste imports at the start of the year.

The ban has caused plastic export prices to plummet and some waste operators have been stockpiling their waste in the hope that the market will improve.

Mr Christian said the burned waste from the Coromandel fire, which included 300 tyres, would have to be put in landfill as it had been contaminated.

About 100 tonnes of plastic and paper was destroyed in Tuesday night’s fire. Photo: RNZ / Supplied

“Just a big charred ugly mess that had sort of glued itself together through the melting process,” he said.

The burning waste created acrid smoke but was not believed to be toxic, he said, and 95 percent of the water used to put out the fire was been captured in a pond system at the site.

Another roughly 1000 tonnes of waste was also still stockpiled in six warehouses around the country, Mr Christian said.

He said the fire highlighted the need for better waste management systems in New Zealand, to cope with the growing amount of waste being recycled.