By Mick Jensen
It’s been the facilitator, educator and champion of recycling in the district over the last 24 years, but economic conditions have forced Wastebusters to make the decision to close its doors for good.
The green waste operation and shop at the McNally Street site will close on September 28 and the entire operation will shut down at the end of October.
On-farm recycling, a successful and expanding service that Wastebusters has offered for the last four years, and is the backbone of the current operation, will end on August 31.
Three full time and three part time jobs will be lost as a result of the decision.
Wastebusters manager Sharon Breakwell said the dramatic drop off in the price of recycled materials and the uncertainty in the market had forced Ashburton Wastebusters Trust to make the “very difficult” decision to close.
The decision was the “only sensible option” if you looked at the facts, figures, and current situation.
“With China closing its borders to overseas recycling at the beginning of the year, there has been a lot of pressure on our market in Malaysia.
“The Malaysian market is now swamped with product and nothing more is being accepted for the next three months, while it’s processed,” she said.
“We cannot hold on to our product for three months. Cash flows are very tight and we operate on a ‘shoestring’ budget as it is, so we’ve had to make this decision for economic reasons,” Ms Breakwell said.
Wastebusters had big overheads, including rent and rates, and had received no financial support from the council since 2010, when it had lost the recycling contract, nor from outside funders.
“We’ve been banging our head on a brick wall to compete with a council subsidised facility for the last eight years.
“The reality for us has been that everything that comes through our gates needs to make money when it goes out again. It is the only way we have been able to survive and break even.”
The system worked, she said, but was totally reliant on markets.
Ms Breakwell, who has been involved with Wastebusters for 18 years, says the community support “has been amazing”, especially over the last eight years.
She is also full of praise for local farmers, who have “stepped up” with their on-farm recycling efforts in recent years.
Bale wrap, silage covers, twine and bulk bag recycling volumes had increased hugely and for the last three years totalled 507 tonnes, an impressive total, she said.
Wastebusters provided bins at over 260 farms in the district and either collected them or accepted delivery at the McNally Street site.
Ms Breakwell said she believed Environment Canterbury (ECan) needed to do more to support the recycling effort of farmers.
Rules and regulations had been introduced, but sensible, practical solutions needed to back them up.
Wastebusters made the decision to stop accepting glass bottles and cans from the community in early 2017 and has focused on farm recycling, greenwaste, cardboard and paper because of their economic viability.
However, the current price of paper is around $17 per tonne, meaning the product is a loss maker. Cardboard, a previous healthy earner, has now dropped in price by 300 % over the last year.
Wastebusters would close its doors without a debt to it name and knowing “that it had done everything that it possibly could” to support recycling in Mid Canterbury over many years, said Sharon Breakwell.