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Silly approach to pricing glass for roads

7 December 2006

Media Release

Silly approach to pricing glass for roads points to urgent need for procurement policy reform

Revelations that recycled glass is not being use as roading aggregate because authorities won't consider its whole-of-life cost shows how silly and costly local government procurement policy is.

Glass Packaging Forum study shows it costs $2 per tonne more to use recycled unclean glass as a roading aggregate. But if the cost of dumping the glass in landfills is taken into account it is cheaper.

However, local councils – who run the landfills and complain of their development and operating costs – are not procuring the aggregate because of its day-one price, not whole of life cost.

The Chief Executive of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, Peter Neilson, says this highlights the absurdity of current local central government procurement practices.

"They shoot for the cheapest price on day one – when it's actually the most costly. The practice is widespread. It also involves more than $6 billion a year in purchases by central government agencies, despite whole-of-life cost consideration being backed by Government since 2001.

"Taxpayers and ratepayers would be disgusted if they realised the extent to which officials and their masters are sanctioning massive extra costs, because they're not required to buy on whole-of-life costs," Mr Neilson says.

"Companies which take a five-year look at real costs for everything from light bulbs to using glass to build roads, find they can save tens of millions. We should not be prepared to tolerate the costs to rate and taxpayers, and the environment and our quality of life, of short sighted procurement policies. Every local authority and the Government need to revisit this issue. The savings will be massive," Mr Neilson says.

Transit now allows up to 5% of glass cullet to be used in base course for roading.

Mr Neilson says the silliness surrounding the councils' non-use of recycled glass also highlights the need for the country to introduce a new levy on waste going to landfill.

"We need to put a transparent price on what it really costs just to dump stuff into highly expensive, and sometimes environmentally suspect, landfills. The alternative is to use a levy to help fund significant new projects, illustrated by the glass one."

A levy proposal is included in a Waste Minimisation Bill that will be before a Parliamentary select committee in the New Year.

ENDS

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