Standard kerbside recycling part of new era for waste system


The Government today announced far-reaching changes to the way we make, use, recycle and dispose of waste, ushering in a new era for New Zealand’s waste system.

The changes will ensure that where waste is recycled, for instance by households at the kerbside, it is less likely to be contaminated by material that cannot be used.

The initiatives are:

  • improved and standardised household kerbside recycling.
  • organic collections (including food scraps), making it easier for people to recycle and avoid sending as much to landfills.
  • a new waste strategy to set New Zealand's direction on waste for the next three decades
  • new and more comprehensive waste legislation

“New Zealand is one of the highest generators of waste per person in the world, every year producing about 750kg per person. At home, we only recycle and compost about one-third of household waste,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

“The way we create and manage waste is way behind many other developed countries, but with these improvements, we’re putting the right foundations in place to bring our waste and recycling systems up to global standards.”

Households in urban areas will have a standardised recycling service by 2027 and a household food scraps collection by 2030. A standardised service will make it clear what can or can't be recycled from home, so New Zealanders can be confident they are doing the right thing.

Standardised recycling collections will ensure collection of glass bottles and jars; paper and cardboard; plastic bottles and containers from plastic types 1, 2, and 5; and aluminium and steel tins and cans.

During consultation, people were overwhelmingly in favour of this initiative, with almost 90 per cent support from 6400 submissions.

Kerbside food scrap collections will be a new service for many households. Ensuring food scraps are separate from landfill collection and can be disposed of responsibly will reduce emissions and make it easier to find new uses for that waste.

“In 2019, waste was responsible for 4 per cent of our total gross emissions, most of which was methane from decomposing of organic material in landfills. By 2035, kerbside food scrap collections will be preventing approximately 45,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent of methane emissions,” David Parker said.

Working with local authorities, the changes to household collections will be phased in from 2024 to 2030 as supporting infrastructure is expanded.

“The measures we’re announcing today will support the social and economic changes we need to address our waste problem.”

David Parker said New Zealand waste issues are one of the top 10 concerns for New Zealanders.

“Today I am releasing our new strategy, Getting Rid of Waste for a Circular Aotearoa New Zealand.

“The strategy – which received strong public support during consultation – commits us to becoming a low-emissions, low-waste circular economy by 2050. A circular economy means we keep resources in use for as long as possible and there is a shift away from the wasteful ‘take – make – dispose’ system.”

The strategy has three phases, with plans to guide the immediate priorities for the next five years.

“Our focus in the first phase is reducing waste emissions and improve recycling and recovery, as well as reducing how much is created in the first place.”

David Parker said new waste legislation, to be progressed during the next Parliamentary term, will provide clear roles and responsibilities for central and local government, and the legal framework needed to achieve the Government’s goals.

David Parker said today’s announcements showed the Government’s commitment to protect the environment and tackle climate change.

Editors’ Notes:

Current Waste Figures

  • 100,000 tonnes of recyclables are placed in household rubbish bins every year
  • 16 per cent of materials placed in recycling bins can’t be recycled, adding cost to our system and in some cases preventing recyclable materials from being recycled
  • Food scraps make up more than a third of a typical household’s rubbish each week
  • More than 300,000 tonnes of food scraps are sent to New Zealand landfills from houses and businesses every year, rotting and producing methane, a potent greenhouse gas
  • Food scraps produce around 22 per cent of the emissions from municipal landfills as they decompose
  • Currently, 46 urban areas have between 1000 and 2000 residents and only 8 of these do not offer kerbside recycling collections
  • ‘Urban areas’ in relation to these proposals follow the Stats NZ definition of settlements with a population greater than 1000 residents (the lower threshold for the smallest category).

A new Waste Strategy

  • The new Waste Strategy sets the direction for New Zealand’s waste system from now to 2050
  • It sets a series of targets and goals to be achieved by 2030
  • The new national targets are:
    • A 10% per-person reduction of waste going into the bin
    • A 30% per-person reduction of material going to final disposal (ie going to landfill rather than being recycled)
    • A 30% reduction in biogenic methane emissions from waste
  • It contains a series of 8 goals that will steer Government regulation and investment in the right direction
  • The previous Waste Strategy was published in 2010

Kerbside recycling

  • From February 2024, all district and city councils must accept only these materials in their recycling collections:
    • glass bottles and jars
    • paper and cardboard (including pizza boxes)
    • plastic bottles and containers marked with recycling symbols 1, 2, and 5
    • aluminium and steel tins and cans.
  • By 2027, all district and city councils provide recycling collections to households in urban areas.
  • By 2030, all district and city councils provide food scraps (or food and garden waste) collections to households in urban areas (see definition of urban areas above).
  • Kerbside standardisation will:
    • divert an extra 53,000 tonnes of recycling; about half of the recyclable materials thrown in rubbish bins each year
    • divert an extra 83,000 tonnes of food waste; about a quarter of the total food waste sent to landfill each year
    • reduce biogenic methane emissions by 45,000 tonnes CO2e per year by 2035
  • Urban food scraps collection will divert an extra 83,000 tonnes of food waste from landfill annually – about a quarter of food waste sent to landfill each year.

New Legislation

  • The new legislation will replace both the Litter Act 1979, and the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 (WMA)
  • The Government intends to introduce the legislation to the House before the election
  • The existing Acts require some modernising, and clarification of the role and responsibility of Government in the waste system, particularly central government’s role
  • The new legislation will:
    • Strengthen the role of the Waste Strategy in central and local government’s decision-making, and require the strategy to be updated every 10 years
    • Carry over WMA powers and make them easier to work with
    • Allow the Government to set labelling requirements so the public know what is recyclable
    • Update the compliance, monitoring, and enforcement system under the Act