1.1 Waste and sustainable development
Waste is "any material, solid, liquid or gas, that is unwanted and/or unvalued, and discarded or discharged by its owner" (Ministry for the Environment, 2002: 7). Almost every activity using materials and energy creates waste.
As economic activity has increased, so has the amount of waste. Not only do production processes create waste as by-products, but the products themselves eventually end up as waste. All steps of the production cycle, including distribution and consumption, have an effect on the environment. If development is to be sustainable we need to decouple environmental pressures from economic growth.
1.2 The New Zealand Waste Strategy
Because the generation of waste is so much a part of economic activity, and because there are so many forms of waste, there is no single or simple solution to the waste problem. New Zealand has made good progress in some areas of waste management, but past policies were not sufficient and a new direction is needed.
The New Zealand Waste Strategy (Ministry for the Environment, 2002) was developed as a joint exercise between central and local government to provide new direction on waste management. The strategy recognises the complexity of waste and encourages changes in thinking and acting towards waste, including seeing waste not so much as an end-of-pipe problem but as a potential resource and a symptom of inefficient resource use. The strategy promotes a change in direction that would help 'close the loop'on resource use and waste generation in ways that would be compatible with sustainable development.
The strategy provides guidance for policies on waste reduction, resource efficiency, resource recovery and waste management. It has three core goals:
- to lower the costs and risks of wastes to society
- to reduce the environmental damage from the generation and disposal of wastes
- to increase economic benefit by using material more efficiently.