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Waste reduction plans for businesses

13 June 2006

Business Council hopes forcing every business to produce waste reduction plans will not kill valuable waste levy bill

The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development says a Green Party move to introduce a national levy on the 3.2 million tonnes of solid waste going each year to New Zealand's 90 landfills has its support.

However, the Business Council is recommending a select committee amend the private member's Waste Minimisation bill, due for its first reading in Parliament tomorrow (14 June), to remove provisions which might see it voted down at a third reading.

Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says forcing more than 360,000 businesses to come up with waste reduction plans may kill-off the Parliamentary push for a much needed national waste levy.

Other provisions also risk putting the levy proposal at risk because they would generate huge opposition from many businesses and MPs.

These provisions include:

- extending the levy to another 3.2 million tonnes of waste going to cleanfills each year. (Cleanfill includes waste like concrete, rubble, plasterboard, wood, steel brick and glass) - banning sales of all products which did not produce a product stewardship programme when required. (Product stewardship involves producers taking responsibility throughout the lifecycle of their products, including disposal.)

Mr Neilson says discussion of the Green's bill, being introduced by MP Nandor Tanczos, should concentrate on successfully introducing a national levy on solid waste going to landfill "and not be defeated because it generates a lot of opposition, particularly from business organisations."

The country had more than 366,000 businesses and making each of them produce a waste reduction plan was not needed – when the waste levy would send a strong enough signal to business to cut waste.

Mr Neilson says the bill's proposal to introduce a levy of $25 per tonne should also be modified to start at $10 per tonne, and then be increased over time. This will send an effective price signal to those generating solid waste. The staged increase will also give the country time to gear up to effectively apply waste levy funds to initiatives which reduce waste, boost recycling and help organisations zero their waste.

The levy should be used to subsidise waste minimization efforts which would otherwise be uneconomic. It will help the country, for example, tackle its current South Island glass waste mountain.

Nationwide UMR polling for the Business Council research shows waste is the third highest environmental concern of New Zealanders.

"Many are deeply cynical over how waste recycling is currently managed. They see contractors throwing some items out of their recycling bins onto the kerb and know something is very wrong. There are potentially big national benefits to be gained from waste reduction. We'd like to see a national levy – but not to have the initiative cast aside because of costly or premature provisions in the Green bill which haven't been subjected to any national interest test," Mr Neilson says.

Provided there is sufficient time, the Business Council will research the national interest test on the levy and make submissions on the Green bill if it passes its first reading and goes to a select committee.


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