The Government’s work programme for waste is aimed at accelerating New Zealand’s transition towards a circular economy.
The government is currently consulting on two proposals to reduce the impact of plastic on our environment.
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).
- plastic packaging
- electrical and electronic products (e-waste)
- agrichemicals and their containers
- 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.
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.
Read Associate Minister Sage's media release: Government to regulate environmentally harmful plastic packaging, tyres, e-waste [Beehive website]
The Government has confirmed its plans to increase and expand the national waste dispoal 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 percent 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 percent of submitters agreed the status quo needed to change. Most were broadly in support of increasing and expanding the levy.
Summary of submissions from the public consultation
Investment in recycling infrastructure
As part of the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund infrastructure focus announced on 1 July, the Government is investing $124 million in a number of initiatives across the country. This will include plastic recycling plants and community resource recovery facilities.
This upfront funding and investment in waste and recycling infrastructure will speed progress in filling major gaps in our waste infrastructure while phasing in an increased and expanded waste levy. It will create hundreds of permanent jobs across New Zealand.
Read Minister Sage's media release on the Beehive website: Government steps up action on waste - funds recycling infrastructure and expands levy scheme.
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.
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.
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.
- We are developing a proposed National Environmental Standard for the outdoor storage of tyres (NES). Public consultation on a revised proposal took place in February-April 2020. We anticipate regulations will be finalised late 2020 and come into force in 2021.
- 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.
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.