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Waste Strategy Scores “Zero out of 10”

Waste Strategy Scores “Zero out of 10”

Solid waste specialists have sounded their frustration at what they say is a lack of political leadership on New Zealand’s chronic levels of rubbish generation.

New Zealand still disposes of around 3.4million tonnes of solid waste in landfills each year, with a similar volume of construction industry waste sent to cleanfills. Total volumes continue to increase in line with economic activity.

Meeting at their annual conference in Christchurch, members of the Waste Management Institute (WasteMINZ) have urged the Government to redouble efforts to bring the waste mountain under control.

Denis O’Rourke, the chairman of Canterbury landfill company Transwaste, says the failure to rein in solid waste volumes had exposed Government inaction “of significant magnitude.” He was commenting on an assessment by the Parliamentary Commissioner of the Environment which showed:

Almost no policy analysis has been undertaken on the use of economic instruments to promote waste minimisation since the New Zealand Waste Strategy was launched in 2002 Many of the Strategy’s “action points” have not been completed There has been no State of the Environment Report produced since the first, in 1997 There are still major gaps in the data about where solid waste comes from and how much the commercial sector is processing or diverting from landfill There is a focus on end-of-pipeline solutions rather than using instruments that influence consumer purchasing decisions There is uncertainty in the legislation relating to waste issues More packaging is being diverted from landfill, but the total amount of packaging producing is continuing to increase at a faster rate.

Denis O’Rourke, who also chairs Christchurch recycling operator META, said New Zealand is failing in its responsibility to break the relationship between economic activity and waste, and the blame must be sheeted home to the Government.

Veteran waste minimisation advocate Don Reisterer, a member of the Waste Strategy’s original working group, says the progress made under the strategy, following the fanfare around its release, was extremely disappointing. He said New Zealanders collectively had failed to pick up the message about the need to act. The PCE’s assessment effectively gave a score of “zero out of 10.”

The general manager of the Ministry for the Environment’s Sustainable Industry Group, Rachael Dupree, said the Government’s focus will remain on breaking the link between economic growth and waste volumes. Work is continuing on a number of voluntary schemes for industry along with technical and best practice guidelines, and standards such as the NZ4544 standard for composting. 2

More work was planned to complete an inventory of cleanfills, and there were a number of initiatives planned with industry, including a project adding waste wallboard material into compost. An updated State of the Environment Report, under the working title Environment New Zealand, is planned for release in 2007, she said.

The WasteMINZ conference continues tomorrow (Thursday November 9), with sessions on construction and demolition waste, community-based recycling, electronic waste, contaminated sites, extended producer responsibility, and an update on the controversial Packaging Accord.

About WasteMINZ The Waste Management Institute of New Zealand (WasteMINZ) is a non-profit organisation that was formed in 1989 to promote sustainable waste management practices for the benefit of all New Zealanders. Its primary function is to provide a forum for presentation and dissemination of information and to act as a facilitator for the waste management industry in New Zealand.


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