Government steps up work on tackling waste

The Government today released the next phase of its plan to tackle New Zealand’s mounting waste challenges. Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage released proposals to increase funding support for councils, community organisations and businesses for projects to recover and recycle more materials and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

“In the past decade, people have sent nearly 30 million tonnes of waste to municipal landfills around the country – a 50 per cent increase in waste that can often be recycled, composted or reused.  We can’t allow this situation to continue” says Eugenie Sage. 

The Government is seeking public feedback on its proposals to expand the national landfill levy scheme set out in a consultation document entitled “Reducing Waste: a more effective landfill levy.”

“One of our first moves as a Government was to ban single use plastic shopping bags.  Reducing waste is part of our drive to reduce the volume of rubbish ending up at the tip and contributing 5 per cent of our annual greenhouse gas emissions,” said Eugenie Sage.

“The huge riverbed and coastal clean-up job after a severe storm eroded the Fox landfill highlighted that there is no magic ‘away’ for waste.   Local communities often oppose new landfills and New Zealanders want more options for materials recovery and reprocessing and better kerbside recycling.   The revenue from an expanded and increased landfill levy will help provide this.

“While Australia recovers about 55 per cent of its waste, New Zealand currently recovers 35 per cent. We know it’s currently cheaper and easier to send waste to the dump than recycle or recover materials from it. If we flip that around we create jobs in reprocessing, valuable materials are recovered and our economy becomes more efficient.

“That’s why we’re proposing to:

  •  Encourage more reuse and recycling by progressively increasing the levy rate for landfills that take household waste from the current $10 per tonne – set in 2009 - to $50 or $60 per tonne by mid-2023.
  • Even the playing field by expanding the landfill levy to cover all landfill types including industrial and construction and demolition fills, but not cleanfills or farm dumps, at a proposed rate of $10 or $20 per tonne depending on the type of landfill.
  • Improve the way waste is managed across the country by collecting better data about the waste we are creating, and how we are disposing of it.
  • Invest the additional landfill revenue in solutions that support waste reduction, such as building New Zealand-based recycling and reprocessing infrastructure to recover more materials. This will enable investment in projects like Green Gorilla’s project which takes valuable building and demolition waste materials and re-purposes them so they don’t get thrown away, or Flight Plastics who make recycled packaging from plastic bottles, or support community recycling centres in towns across Aotearoa.

“All of the revenue from the landfill levy gets recycled back into waste minimisation with half going to local councils so they can fund the resource recovery and other infrastructure their communities want. The other half goes to the Waste Minimisation Fund which provides grants to support businesses and community organisations reduce waste. 

“This is a great way to make sure we can reduce waste and deal with rubbish we create here in New Zealand, creating jobs and innovation, and not send New Zealand’s waste offshore for other countries and communities to deal with. 

“It is also a great boost to the story our businesses, exporters and tourism industry can tell about clean, green New Zealand. We have a good reputation but we must keep working to protect and enhance that advantage,” Eugenie Sage said.

“I look forward to hearing the feedback on these proposals to look after the environment and support innovation by reducing waste, reusing and recovering more materials in New Zealand” concludes Eugenie Sage.

Consultation on the new landfill expansion proposals is open now and closes on 3 February 2020. Visit http://www.mfe.govt.nz/consultations/landfill-levy for more details.