News | 16 July 2018

Wellington leads call on need for national approach to waste

Councils around the country are overwhelmingly backing Wellington’s call for a game-changer in the way the country deals with rubbish going to landfill.

Local Government New Zealand is calling on the government to implement the Local Government Waste Manifesto. A remit put forward by Wellington and Christchurch city councils was passed with 96 percent support at LGNZ’s conference in Christchurch at the weekend.

The remit asks the Government to adopt a strategic New Zealand-wide approach to the collection and processing of recyclable materials, and declare tyres, e-waste, agricultural chemicals and plastics as priority products.

“From January, China’s National Sword Policy meant China ceased taking much of the world’s waste, including some of our recycling, so they could focus on their own environment and reduce pollution,” says Wellington Mayor Justin Lester.

“When that option closed it showed us we have to make some important changes.

“It also gives us a chance to address the waste-related economies of scale issues we have in New Zealand.

“In the past, each council has taken its own approach to solid waste collection, processing and disposal, which has meant a fragmented response to waste management and minimisation.

“This gives us an opportunity to clean up our own act. New Zealand is a world leader in many fields, and we also need to be a world leader in keeping our back yard clean.

“I am sure that with the right incentives, we can come up with innovative solutions to one of the world’s most pressing problems.”

Councillor Iona Pannett, Wellington City Council’s portfolio leader for Infrastructure and Sustainability, responsible for the city’s waste plan, says increasing the Waste Disposal Levy is critical for funding infrastructure which will allow New Zealanders to deal with waste onshore.

In line with Cr Pannett’s earlier calls for action, the majority (76 percent) of conference attendees representing all New Zealand’s councils supported an increase in the levy.

“Currently the levy is $10 a tonne, one of the lowest in the world and offers no incentive for recovery. Australian states have a levy in excess of $100/tonne. In the UK it’s $160/tonne,” says Cr Pannett.

“The Ministry for the Environment needs to investigate a rise in the levy as there is so much an increase could achieve,” she says.

LGNZ also wants the Government to establish a container deposit scheme, or ‘cash back for bottles’, to help lift recycling rates. 

New Zealand also lacks comprehensive, reliable waste data. “Addressing this will support better planning and investment in the sector,” Cr Pannett says.

“We will need landfill operators, councils, producers, brand-owners and the community to work together, but central government is the key to making it happen all around the country.”

Reducing the waste stream remit

This remit asked that LGNZ advocates to central government to implement the local government waste manifesto to reduce New Zealand’s waste by:

  • adopting a New Zealand-wide strategic approach to the collection, and processing of recyclable materials within New Zealand
  • reviewing the New Zealand Waste Strategy and aligning, where practicable, with the “Local Government Waste Management Manifesto” to set a clear programme for action
  • expanding the Waste Disposal Levy and progressively raise the levy rate in order to reduce total waste to landfills
  • officially adopting the National Waste Data Framework and oversee its implementation to enable better planning and monitoring
  • establishing a container deposit scheme in consultation with local government in order to lift recycling rates
  • declaring tyres, e-waste, agricultural chemicals and plastics, as priority products under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008, to address problem waste streams.

Proposed by the Wellington and Christchurch city councils, this remit highlighted the need for central government direction to develop a New Zealand-wide approach to recyclables processing and argues that, council-by-council approaches to solid waste collection, processing and disposal, are unlikely to achieve the necessary economies of scale needed to profit from recyclables processing in New Zealand.