Government steps up action on waste - funds recycling infrastructure and expands levy scheme

  • Hon Eugenie Sage
  • $124 million Government investment in recycling infrastructure
  • Plans confirmed to increase and expand the waste levy to divert material from landfill, and recycle revenue into resource recovery and waste minimisation
  • Innovative construction and demolition facility opened in Auckland with $3.1 million in support from Government’s Waste Minimisation Fund (WMF).

As part of a broader plan to reduce the increasing amount of rubbish ending up in New Zealand’s landfills, the Government is to fund new recycling infrastructure and expand the national waste levy scheme.

Associate Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage, made the announcement today at the Green Gorilla waste service provider in Auckland.

Green Gorilla received $3.1 million in WMF funding for a new commercial and industrial waste line, which is able to process mixed commercial and industrial waste and divert it from landfill. 

“New Zealanders are proud of our country’s clean, green reputation. Yet rubbish disposal to New Zealand’s municipal landfills increased by a staggering 48 per cent in the last ten years. We can’t allow this situation to continue,” said Eugenie Sage.

“We need large scale and urgent action because much of what is currently sent to New Zealand landfills could be recycled, composted or reused.

“As part of the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF) the Government is investing $124 million in a number of initiatives across the country. This will include plastic recycling and reprocessing plants, weighbridges for improved waste data collection and improved material and community resource recovery plants.

“This $124 million is a massive investment in reducing waste – about as much as the entire Waste Minimisation Fund allocation in the past decade.

“Increased investment in waste minimisation and resource recovery infrastructure will ensure New Zealand emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic with a far better resource recovery and recycling system, creating hundreds of permanent jobs and incomes across New Zealand.

“This up-front funding and investment in waste and recycling infrastructure will speed progress in filling the major gaps in our waste infrastructure while phasing in an expanded and increased waste levy.

“Expanding and increasing the waste levy is one of the best tools we have to incentivise reduced waste to landfill and prevent valuable resources from being thrown away. We are making it easier for households and businesses to do the right thing,” said Eugenie Sage.

The Government has decided to:

  • Level the playing field by expanding the waste levy to cover additional landfill types, including construction and demolition fills (progressively from 1 July 2022). At present the waste levy only applies to municipal landfills that take household waste, with no levy on the remaining almost 90 percent of landfills throughout the country.
  • Progressively increase over four years the levy rate for landfills that take household waste from the current $10 per tonne – set in 2009 – to $60 per tonne. The current plan is for first changes to the levy to take effect from 1 July 2021. Current economic conditions will be considered before implementation timelines are confirmed later this year.
  • Collect better data about the waste we are creating, and how we are disposing of it, so ensuring our waste can be better managed.
  • Invest the additional revenue from the waste levy in initiatives that support waste reduction, such as building New Zealand-based recycling infrastructure. This includes helping businesses such as Green Gorilla, which takes construction, commercial and industrial waste materials and re-purposes them so they are not thrown away.

“Incredibly, New Zealand currently has one of the highest rates of waste production per capita in the developed world, punching way above our weight in the wrong direction.

“Expanding the levy will help recognise the real costs of waste, make it fairer for everyone, and incentivise materials reuse and recycling, rather than just ‘taking it to the tip’. The CRRF investment will also provide people with better options for recycling their waste.

“The proposed levy increases are likely to have a minimal impact on a family’s weekly budget. The Ministry for the Environment estimates that when fully implemented, the new levy could increase the cost of the weekly council kerbside rubbish bag by about 25c, depending on individual council decisions.

“After years of advocacy and engagement with councils and the waste sector, I am proud to announce the expansion of the national waste levy, which is key to the Government’s wider plan of reducing the ever-increasing amount of rubbish ending up in landfill.  Two previous reviews of the levy have recommended expanding and increasing the levy. This is the first Government which has implemented those recommendations.

Eugenie Sage thanked the almost 500 local councils, iwi, businesses, NGOs and individuals who made submissions during the waste levy public consultation process.

“More than 80 percent of submitters agreed the status quo needs to change, and most were broadly in support of increasing and expanding the levy.”

Expanding and increasing the waste levy will also:

  • Help reduce climate pollution (waste currently represents about 5 per cent of all New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions)
  • Make New Zealand more resilient to volatility global markets post-Covid as there will be more New Zealand-based recycling capacity.