Councils are saving up their plastic, landfills are reaching their brink, and some plastic isn't being recycled at all while the country hopes for a recycling miracle.
There's nowhere for most of the country's recycling to go - it's still shipped overseas.
In a recent report on plastic, 2030 was named the year by which New Zealand could have onshore recycling for its own waste.
"We chose 2030 as a realistic timeframe in which NZ could make a systems change, but sooner would obviously be better than later," the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor Juliet Gerrard says.
Cardboard and glass is recycled here, but most used plastic, paper and metal is shipped and dumped overseas.
After a wake-up call from abroad, when China decided to stop accepting the world's recycling, many councils stopped collecting plastic types three to seven for recycling - sending it all to the dump instead.
Kaikōura and Kaipara have stockpiled soft plastics until a solution is found.
Recycling has also been called ineffective. Over the last two years 32,000 tonnes of Auckland rubbish was sent to the landfill instead.
Some of the country's waste is so badly sorted, it's contaminated, and Indonesia shipped container loads of it back to New Zealand last year.
Juliet says the country needed to invest in its own infrastructure and recycling collection needed to be more consistent.
"This may well take more time than the establishment of infrastructure itself," says Juliet.
"The recycling plants won't be economically feasible if they don't have a reliable supply of material ... so the infrastructure needs to be part of a systems change."
Other countries are far ahead of New Zealand when it comes to dealing with their own waste.
Juliet says Japan, despite being a high consumer of plastic, was well set up well to recycle it.
Countries like Australia and Germany already had container deposit schemes, which New Zealand is still investigating.
Plans to build a Tetra Pak recycling facility in South Auckland last year have fallen over. The company Tetra Pak were working with had financial difficulties, a spokesperson said.
"We are working with them and their financial partners to continue the progress of setting up the facility.
"We are unable to make a wide announcement at this stage due to commercial sensitivity."
But Juliet believes New Zealand still has the opportunity to step up and show leadership.
Currently, the only plastic recycling New Zealand has is for PET, at Flight Plastics in Wellington, and Juliet says other plastics needed to be prioritised.
"The Ministry for the Environment are currently working through the recommendations, and will be responsible for detailed advice to Minister Sage and the Government on timeframes for investment."