Government working with industry and councils on solutions to China waste ban

A taskforce is being set up to deal with the impact of the Chinese Government’s ban on the import of many recycling materials, Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage announced today.

Introduced last year, the Chinese regulations banned the import of some types of waste materials including mixed recyclables. New Zealand is one of many countries impacted, and faces similar issues to Australia.

New Zealand had been sending 15 million kg to China annually – mainly mixed paper and mixed plastics that isn’t recycled locally the way glass, aluminium, clean and separated cardboard and paper, and certain types of plastic are.

“The ban has had a greater impact than the industry expected and we need a coordinated response from central and local government, together with the waste and business sectors,” Eugenie Sage said.

“A special taskforce is being set up within the Ministry for the Environment dedicated to leading the response, and we will establish an external working group with representatives from councils and the sector to provide independent advice.”

New Zealand’s recycling sector has been diverting most of the materials that is not recycled here to processing plants in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

“The ban has had deeper impacts than anticipated and the recycling sector is facing rising pressure from the significant drop in global commodity prices. It is clear that this situation is not sustainable.

“Several small stockpiles of recyclable materials have been building around the country, where smaller operators don’t have ready access to alternative markets,” Ms Sage said.

“The Government is using funds from the waste levy to invest in projects that will accelerate New Zealand’s transition to a circular economy, including investing in onshore recycling plants.

“We are also looking at options such as expanding the waste levy to more landfills, improving the data we have on waste including recyclables, and other tools to reduce the environment harm of products such as product stewardship, levies and bans.”