Government Plans to Shake-up Waste

Hoping to cut down the near 13 million tonnes of waste New Zealand sends to landfill every year, the Government has announced plans to shake-up the country’s waste system.

The Transforming Recycling plan includes a national recycling system, a programme to encourage people to recycle bottles and a universal kerbside food waste collection. Environment Minister David Parker unveiled the proposal in Auckland and said New Zealand's current waste systems are inadequate.

“Every year New Zealand generates more than 17 million tonnes of waste ... It's estimated that nationally only 28 percent of materials are recycled and the rest goes to landfill. By contrast, Germany, Austria and Wales have the highest recycling rates in the world, with over 50 percent of all waste being recycled.”

Parker said the aim of the new system is to make complete waste services accessible to all New Zealanders and he used his own circumstances to illustrate the point.

“I would say my recycling at my house is Auckland is pretty good, but recycling I do at my flat in Wellington is poor. For me to ensure my recyclables are recycled, I've effectively got to take them into work.

I think that's an example of how these things need to be standardised so I can do as well in my Wellington flat as I can do at my home in Auckland.”

The new changes being announced include a kerbside food scrap collection for all homes and businesses by 2030. Parker noted that food scraps make up more than a third of a typical household's rubbish each week and create greenhouse gas emissions when sent to landfill.

Methane is released when the food breaks down in landfill and it will never be possible to catch all of this gas.

"Providing access to household kerbside food scraps collections is a simple step to reduce emissions and return nutrients to the soil,” he explained.

Bottles too have been targeted for a recycling programme.

“More than two billion drinks are sold every year in New Zealand. Less than half of these containers are recycled, meaning that over a billion containers end up as litter, are stockpiled, or sent to landfills every year.”

A bottle deposit system will allow people to receive 20 cents per bottle they drop off at designated collection sites, some of the machines would operate like an ATM, taking the bottles in exchange for cash. Dairies and supermarkets may also be used as collection points.

"The container deposit scheme will reduce litter of beverage containers by more than 50 percent - that's the overseas experience. That's a big drop and some of that litter created is quite dangerous, with broken glass and things.”

Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson expressed that Labour has done very little to address recycling in the five years it has been in power.

“In concept and in principle these are three good initiatives that we would want to support if we can. It surprises me that a government that talks a big game on environmental issues is still just talking about reducing the volume, the vast volume, of stuff we send to landfill every year.”

Public feedback on the plan is encouraged and is open until 8 May on the Ministry for the Environment website.