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Waste and Government

The Government’s work programme for waste is aimed at accelerating New Zealand’s transition towards a circular economy. 

The Government recently consulted on two proposals to reduce the impact of plastic on our environment. 

Find out more about the proposals

National waste strategy under development

Waste legislation review

Accredited product stewardship schemes required for six priority products

Plan to increase and expand the national waste disposal levy

Investment in recycling infrastructure

Proposed National Environmental Standard for the Outdoor Storage of Tyres

Actions underway in response to the Rethinking plastics report 

Other initiatives underway  

National waste strategy under development

MfE is taking a lead role in developing a new waste strategy for Aotearoa New Zealand. 

What the strategy will do

The strategy will set the direction and guide investment as we address waste and resource recovery challenges over the coming decades. 

We are working on the strategy with:

  • Māori 
  • the waste sector 
  • industry 
  • waste producers
  • local government 
  • other interested parties.

The strategy will be supported by work to strengthen and update waste-related legislation, including the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 and Litter Act 1979. 

Steps taken 

  • A rōpū of Maori experts has been set up to guide the kaupapa according to mātauranga Māori.
  • A sector advisory group has also been set up. It includes waste professionals from across business, academia, non-government organisations and local government.
  • MfE have begun developing a draft strategy in conjunction with relevant stakeholders including the above groups. 

Next steps

  • Public consultation on a draft strategy will be held in the second half of 2021.

Waste legislation review 

MfE is conducting a review of our waste and resource efficiency legislation. 

Reason for the review

There is a need to strengthen various legislative provisions to support the wide-ranging government work programme for waste. This programme includes for example regulated product stewardship and a national plastics action plan. 

Strengthened legislation will support the new waste strategy for New Zealand by providing tools and incentives to transform the waste sector and help transition to a more circular and resource-efficient economy. 

What the review involves

  • Looking at how provisions within the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 and Litter Act 1979 could be improved or amended.
  • Considering new provisions not already in these Acts.

Due to upcoming changes to the waste levy regime we also need to:

  • revise what levy funds can be used for by central and local government 
  • enhance administrative and decision-making processes to invest levy funds more effectively. 

Timeframes for the review

  • In the first half of 2021, we will focus on gathering evidence and developing draft legislative proposals. 
  • Public consultation on possible legislative changes will be held in the second half of 2021.

Accredited product stewardship schemes required for six priority products

As part of the wider plan to reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in landfills or polluting the environment, the Government has declared six priority products for regulated product stewardship under the Waste Minimisation Act (WMA).

They are:

  • plastic packaging
  • tyres
  • electrical and electronic products (e-waste)
  • agrichemicals and their containers
  • refrigerants 
  • farm plastics.

Regulated product stewardship helps put the responsibility for a product’s life-cycle and waste management on manufacturers, importers, retailers and users, rather than on communities, councils, neighbourhoods and nature. 

The decision to have regulated product stewardship follows public consultation in 2019.

Read the Summary of submissions

The Ministry is working with stakeholders to co-design product stewardship schemes for each priority product group and will consult on any regulations under the WMA that may be required to implement those schemes. Co-design of the schemes for tyres and refrigerants is currently underway.

Find out more about regulated product stewardship

Applying for regulated product stewardship accreditation

Read Associate Minister Sage's media release: Government to regulate environmentally harmful plastic packaging, tyres, e-waste [Beehive website]

Plan to increase and expand the national waste disposal levy

The Government has confirmed its plans to increase and expand the national waste disposal levy to divert more material from landfill. It will use the revenue gathered from the waste disposal levy for resource recovery and waste minimisation.

The plan includes the following.

  • Progressively increasing over four years the levy rate for landfills that take household waste from the current $10 per tonne – set in 2009 – to $60 per tonne. 
  • Expanding the waste levy to cover additional landfill types, including construction and demolition fills. At present the waste levy only applies to municipal landfills that take household waste, with no levy on the remaining almost 90 per cent of landfills throughout the country. 
  • Collecting better data about the waste we are creating, and how we are disposing of it, so our waste can be better managed. 
  • Investing the additional revenue from the waste levy in initiatives that support waste reduction, such as building New Zealand-based recycling infrastructure. This includes helping businesses such as Green Gorilla, which takes construction, commercial and industrial waste materials and re-purposes them so they are not thrown away.

The current plan is to phase in the changes over four years as outlined in the table below. The dates will be confirmed later this year.

Landfill class 1 July 2021 1 July 2022 1 JULY 2023 1 July 2024
Municipal landfill (class 1) $20 $30 $50 $60
Construction and demolition fill (class 2)   $20 $20 $30
Managed fill (class 3)     $10 $10
Controlled fill (class 4)     $10 $10

Increasing and expanding the levy will help recognise the real costs of waste, make it fairer for everyone and incentivise materials reuse and recycling rather than just ‘taking it to the tip’. 

The proposed levy increases are likely to have a minimal impact on a family’s weekly budget. The Ministry for the Environment estimates that when fully implemented, the new levy could increase the cost of the weekly council kerbside rubbish bag by about 25c, depending on individual council decisions. 

Despite the relatively low impact on households, the Government is mindful that many families are facing difficult economic circumstances at present. Economic conditions will be considered again before implementation timelines are confirmed later this year.

Expansion of waste levy part of wider plan

The expansion of the national waste levy is key to the Government’s wider plan of reducing the ever-increasing amount of rubbish ending up in landfill.  Two previous reviews of the levy have recommended expanding and increasing the levy. 

A public consultation was held in November 2019 to February 2020 on the proposed expansion of the levy. More than 80 per cent of submitters agreed the status quo needed to change. Most were broadly in support of increasing and expanding the levy.

Related information

Public consultation on the national waste levy.

Summary of submissions from the public consultation

Regulatory impact statement: Increase and expansion of waste disposal levy

Investment in recycling infrastructure

The Government is investing $124 million in a number of recycling infrastructure initiatives across the country. This is part of the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund infrastructure focus announced on 1 July 2020 (see media release below). The funding is to speed up progress in filling major gaps in waste recycling infrastructure. 

The initiatives include plastic recycling plants and community resource recovery facilities. Further details of these projects will be published on our website when funding arrangements are confirmed.

For more information on MfE’s CRRF funding email the Waste Infrastructure Investment team at

Read the Associate Minister's media release: Government steps up action on waste - funds recycling infrastructure and expands levy scheme [Beehive website].

Proposed National Environmental Standard for the Outdoor Storage of Tyres

Cabinet has approved the policy content and drafting of a National Environmental Standard for the outdoor storage of tyres (NES). When the NES regulations are drafted they go back to Cabinet for a final decision, which we expect would happen late 2020. The regulations would come into force in 2021.

Find out more about the NES

Actions underway in response to the Rethinking plastics report

In December 2019, the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor released a report - Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand. The report laid out an aspirational vision for Aotearoa in 2030 whereby New Zealanders are innovative world leaders in reducing plastic use and in limiting the amount of plastic found in our environment. The report makes 51 specific recommendations. 

Read the report on the Office of the Prime Ministers Chief Science Advisor website.

Many of the recommended actions are already underway.

The Government has agreed to take additional actions including the following. 

  • Lead the development of a national plastics action plan and develop guidelines to inform the sustainable use of plastic in Government procurement. 
  • Improve the depth and accessibility of data on plastics, fill knowledge gaps and encourage innovation.
  • Support action on plastics through education, engagement with sectors, support for innovative business, development of standards and guidelines, and by considering positive incentives for change.
  • Better co-ordinate and leverage international connections and mechanisms to support our plastics agenda.

Read the Government’s full response

Cabinet paper and minute: Government Response to the Rethinking Plastics Report

MfE, with support from other agencies, will work with partners and stakeholders from September 2020 to finalise an action plan. 

Other initiatives underway

Other initiatives in the Government’s work programme to reduce waste include the following. 

  • Investigating a container return scheme for beverage bottles and cans. The aim is to increase the recovery of drink bottles and cans so that the materials they are made of, such as aluminium and plastic, can be recycled, reducing litter and waste. Find out more
  • Together with councils and industry the government is working to standardise kerbside collection systems and consumer package labelling across the country, to make it easier for households and businesses to recycle. Read WasteMINZs Recommendations report for standardisation of kerbside collections in Aotearoa.

The single-use plastic bags ban recently passed its first anniversary and the milestone of having removed an estimated 1.1 billion plastic shopping bags from the environment.