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Waste and Government

The Government has developed a work programme to take action on New Zealand’s waste through a circular economy approach.

About the work programme

The work programme focuses on the following initiatives.

  • Expanding the waste disposal levy to more of New Zealand’s landfills and improving our data on waste.
    • At present we don’t have data on the composition of what’s going into landfills or the amount of resources that are being diverted from landfill.
  • Analysing where investment in innovation and resource recovery infrastructure is most needed to support New Zealand’s transition to a circular economy approach.
  • Implementing product stewardship schemes for problematic waste streams including vehicle tyres, e-waste (starting with lithium-ion batteries), agrichemicals and synthetic greenhouse gases.
  • Developing a national circular economy strategy, starting with priority sectors where the greatest benefits can be gained from transitioning to a circular economy approach.

For more information read the Minister's media release - Waste work programme to tackle tough problems (19 August 2018) [Beehive website]

Other recent initiatives

The Government is also working on the following.

Investing in projects that will help design waste out of the system

The Government is using funds raised from the Waste Disposal Levy to invest in projects that will help design waste out of the system.

This includes:

  • investing in onshore resource recovery facilities
  • exploring new business models to keep materials circulating within the economy
  • fostering innovation to support the transition to a circular economy approach.

Working with industry to cut plastic waste

  • In October 2018 the New Zealand Government became a signatory to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, an initiative led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and UN Environment to address the root causes of plastic waste and pollution. The Global Commitment brings together governments, businesses and NGOs around the world to commit to adopting circular economy approach to plastics with key targets in place for 2025.
  • As a step towards this, we have worked with 15 local and multi-national companies to sign the New Zealand Plastic Packaging Declaration, a joint commitment to use 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in their New Zealand operations by 2025 or earlier.

Changes to commodity prices for recyclable materials

The Government has set up a taskforce to work alongside local government and the waste and resource efficiency sector to identify solutions where prices have reduced for the recyclable materials we collect.

In 2017, China introduced a set of policies (referred to as the ‘National Sword’) which banned or restricted the import of a number of different products including low-quality plastics. The policy took effect in January 2018 and further bans and import restrictions have been announced since then.

Recyclables from around the world are now being sent to other countries such as Malaysia and Thailand. Prices for recyclables in international markets have dropped dramatically. Lower sale prices mean that exporters of recyclables are facing significant financial pressure.

This situation has highlighted that we cannot rely on the international market to take our low-value recyclable material. We must raise the quality of what is collected and how it is processed so we can provide higher-quality recyclables for sale. In the medium to long term we need to build more on-shore processing solutions.

We are drawing on shared experience, in particular from Australia, to help us work through the situation in a pragmatic way.