Plan to recharge recycling

  • Hon Eugenie Sage

Today the Government announced another part of its plan to help turn around New Zealand’s rubbish record on waste.

“New Zealanders care deeply about reducing waste. That’s why I’m pleased to announce the next steps we’re taking to improve kerbside and commercial recycling, reduce contamination of recyclables so more materials can be recovered, and increase onshore processing of plastics and other materials,” Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage said today. 

The next steps in the work programme are the result of a taskforce set up last year to respond to the Chinese Government’s ban on the import of many recycling materials.

“The taskforce looked at how our resource recovery system is functioning, how we can support more onshore processing of recyclables, and help New Zealand shift to a circular economy approach where products are better designed so that more materials can be recovered and re-used,” Eugenie Sage said.

“As a country we have been sending our waste issues offshore. China’s National Sword initiative has been a wake-up call that we need to deal with waste here in New Zealand.

The Associate Minister also released a situational report commissioned by the taskforce.

“New Zealanders and industry want to see more consistent kerbside recycling for households and improved recycling by businesses.

“Recycling needs to be clean and the right materials put out for collection if the recycling industry is to be able to reprocess and find markets for these materials.

“Developing model contracts for use by councils, kerbside recycling operators will improve the quality and volume of materials collected for reprocessing.

Taskforce recommendations which will now be part of the Ministry for the Environment’s work programme include: 

  1. Identifying the gaps in materials recovery and waste infrastructure where investment is needed.
  2. Reviewing kerbside collection and processing systems to identify how to increase the quality of recyclables and to ensure more materials can be recovered and recycled instead of going to landfill.
  3. Undertaking feasibility studies around how to increase New Zealand’s fibre (paper and cardboard) processing and plastic reprocessing capacity.
  4. Examining how product stewardship for packaging can be used to ensure manufacturers consider what happens to packaging once a product is used by the consumer.
  5. Assessing the options for shifting away from low value and difficult to recycle plastics, such as single-use plastic bags and other low volume and/or mixed materials. This could include regulations around ensuring plastic packaging is able to be recycled and/or to require a portion of recycled content in packaging.
  6. Running an education campaign to help New Zealanders 'recycle right', and reduce the amount of recyclable materials going to landfill because of contamination.
  7. Developing model contracts for the sector to reduce contamination, increase transparency and to better accommodate fluctuations in market prices for recyclable materials.
  8. Developing a sustainable procurement plan and guidelines to encourage purchase of products made of recovered and recycled materials.

“New Zealand is still one of the highest producers of household waste in the developed world, per capita. This is despite waste being the second most pressing issue for New Zealanders according to research commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment.

Recycling industry representatives and local government are working closely with the taskforce, who have also sought expertise from Australia.

This work programme builds on policy work on previously announced initiatives to expand the waste disposal levy to all landfills and use mandatory product stewardship for problem products like vehicle tyres and e-waste that is underway.

The National Resource Recovery Project Situational report has been proactively released on the Ministry for the Environment's website