Recycling tips with Ruth Blunt from Wastebusters

As part of this year’s Recycling Week initiative, QLDC Libraries teamed up with Ruth Blunt from Wānaka Wastebusters to host Q&A drop-in sessions across the district. Ruth answered questions surrounding what should and should not be recycled and shared her extensive knowledge of the recycling process. She told us that pesky plastic meat trays and fruit/veggie punnets marked 1 are the most common culprit when it comes to wrongly recycled materials, but that a recent recycling bin audit from the Queenstown area found that 93% of mixed recycling had little or no contamination.

We had a few questions of our own for Ruth.

How did your journey with Wastebusters start Ruth?

When I arrived in Wānaka 10+ years ago, the first place I visited was Wastebusters. I love everything about it: the zero-waste ethos, passion and amazing treasures! I was super stoked to join Wasties’ amazing comms team in 2019 to help people to recycle effectively and move our district towards zero waste; as part of the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s Waste Services contract.

What are your 3 biggest recycling tips?

My first tip is know what goes in your recycling bins. Glass bottles and jars that once contained food or beverage only for the blue bin. For your yellow bin it's mixed recycling: cardboard, paper, cans, plus plastic bottles and containers marked 1, 2, or 5 (no meat trays, no fruit/veggie punnets, no coloured bottles marked 1).

My second tip is to empty bottles and containers of food or drink and give them a quick rinse before recycling. Clean recycling is way more pleasant for the crew who hand sort the recycling, and it means nothing sticky or yucky spills out onto other recycling.

My third tip, and one I love so I can outsource my memory to my phone, is to sign up for kerbside recycling reminders via text or email at You'll never have to guess if it's blue or yellow bin week again!

What else can we do to continue our journey to zero waste?

Putting recycling and rubbish in the right bin is super helpful, but we want to change the game. Our shared 2050 vision is that waste will be eliminated. Here are some zero waste options you can support in our district:

  • Bring a reusable water bottle when you're out in town and fill up at a refill location, you'll find them at
  • Say no to single use take-away cups - sit in, bring your own reusable cup or use a deposit/return system in participating cafes.
  • Shop without plastic - local tips in the waste-free shopping guide at or
  • Shop second-hand first at Wastebusters, voted Wānaka’s Local’s Choice Awards “top clothing shop”, and the Salvation Army and Hospice shops in Queenstown and Wānaka.
  • Fix anything that needs some love - see for “local repairers” and upcoming repair events.
  • Compost your food scraps - learn how with help from Dr Compost ( or connect with a local composter at
  • For more information on how to recycle with care and cut your waste check out the QLDC website: Rubbish & Recycling – QLDC.

Wastebusters is a not-for-profit community enterprise working for zero waste through reduce, reuse and recycle. For more information, visit their website here: