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Waste shows we use resources inefficiently. There is significant scope for New Zealand to be more efficient and produce less waste, through better design of products and processes, more efficient manufacturing, and better recovery of waste materials. This makes economic and environmental sense.
Once created, waste is a problem to get rid of. Inappropriate disposal of waste pollutes our land and water, and generates potent greenhouse gases. The environmental management of landfills has improved significantly in the last decade. However, there is still more we can do to improve the management of waste disposal sites and the disposal of hazardous wastes.
The Waste Minimisation Act 2008 (the Act) was enacted on 25 September 2008. It provides a new legislative framework with new tools and responsibilities for managing and minimising solid waste in New Zealand.
This discussion document sets out some proposals for implementing the new Act and revising New Zealand’s waste policy to make us more resource efficient and protect our environment.
We are seeking your feedback on proposals to:
revise targets for the New Zealand Waste Strategy
identify products that are priorities for ‘product stewardship’, where responsibility for managing and minimising waste begins when a product is produced, and lasts through to its ultimate end
set criteria for funding projects that promote or achieve waste minimisation (the Waste Minimisation Fund)
monitor waste and waste minimisation
improve the operation of the waste levy.
Each is briefly described below.
The Government’s policy to minimise waste is laid out in the New Zealand Waste Strategy: Towards zero waste and a sustainable New Zealand (Ministry for the Environment, 2002). This Strategy and its targets were developed through a partnership between central and local government. A 2006 review of progress (MfE, 2007a) recommended the Ministry for the Environment revise the targets. We are therefore seeking your feedback on the following proposals to:
reduce the quantity of total waste disposed of to landfill, and establish a baseline for future targets to reduce organic, construction and demolition waste
recover or recycle hazardous materials from wastes
assess, manage and remediate all high risk contaminated sites
put in place best practice management of waste disposal facilities
monitor progress at local and national levels to minimise waste.
Product stewardship is when producers, brand owners, importers, retailers, consumers and other parties take responsibility for the environmental effects products may have. That responsibility begins when the production process begins, and extends to recycling and disposal at the end of the product’s life. Product stewardship helps ensure that the costs of waste are reflected in production and manufacturing decisions.
Product stewardship can be voluntary or mandatory. There are many examples of voluntary schemes being developed and run by industry, and the Ministry will continue to encourage new voluntary initiatives.
A mandatory product stewardship scheme is required when the Minister for the Environment declares a product to be a ‘priority product’. Procedures to do so are set out in the Act, and guidelines for the scheme may be published.
Products we intend to investigate for mandatory product stewardship in the short term are:
Further assessment and consultation will be carried out before any product is declared a priority product.
Minimising waste means both reducing waste and reusing, recycling and recovering material diverted from landfills. The new Act allows a fund to be set up to support projects that promote or achieve waste minimisation, paid for via a levy of $10 per tonne on waste sent to landfill.
Half the money raised by the levy (less administration costs) will be allocated to proposed projects and applications will be sought later this year. We are looking for feedback on what criteria should be used to assess and select proposals.
A lack of comprehensive information about waste hampers our ability to plan and develop policy and, ultimately, to use resources more efficiently.
To help build a clear picture of New Zealand’s waste, we are proposing regulations that require landfill operators to report on the composition of the waste they deal with. This will help us monitor progress to minimise waste at local and national levels. We are seeking feedback on these proposals.
If the proposed $10 a tonne waste levy is applied across the board, it could have unintended negative consequences. That is, it could become difficult for operators to source sufficient cover material (soil and rock) to prevent problems with vermin, wind and odours, and this could compromise the environmental management of the landfill. Cover material accounts for up to 10 per cent of material disposed of at landfills.
We are therefore considering regulations that would exempt cover material used for environmental management purposes.