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New Zealand waste policies stuck in the past

26 June, 2013

New Zealand waste policies stuck in the past

New Zealand’s waste policies are stuck in the 19th Century as ever-rising levels of rubbish are dumped to landfill instead of a system fit for the 21st Century of more and better recycling and possibly waste incineration, a leading environmental law expert says.

Professor Al Gillespie of the University of Waikato presents a paper today at the ICUN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium which brings together leading environmental law experts from around the world.

Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research at the University, Professor Gillespie argues New Zealand is struggling to find sustainable, long-term waste solutions despite years of rhetoric about how clean and green we are.

“We only recycle what is easy and go out of our way to avoid solutions which have proven successful in other countries such as controlling waste streams such as plastic bags,” he says.

Instead, we are generating more waste than ever before and leaving the problem for future generations to deal with.

“We all consume more than we did five to ten years ago, so that your mobile phone is likely to be less than two years old and we have second and third generations of these new technologies going to landfill or exported to developing countries to be scrapped in ways that cause environmental or social damage,” Professor Gillespie says.

“We all like whales and dolphins and so we support the efforts at conservation of those species but when it comes to personal choices, we don’t want to change our lifestyle.”

New Zealanders were only able to dump the amount of landfill rubbish they did because the country had enough space.

“Not only is it inefficient, it’s ugly, expensive and we’re running out of time with that option, passing the problem to future generations,” says Professor Gillespie.

“If you live in a country like Japan or in some parts of Europe, you have to make different choices and that’s why they have opted for new methods based on the highest technological and corporate standards. These new methods are the way of the future but not what we are doing at the moment.”

Professor Gillespie will present his paper “Wasted: Historical Patterns, Modern Problems and Blind Gaps: Ethical, Economic and Environmental – The Challenges of Dealing With Waste in International Law” at the ICUN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium happening at the University of Waikato in Hamilton.


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