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Mallard: Waste minimisation bill second reading

19 June, 2008
Waste minimisation bill second reading

Madam Speaker, I would like to speak in support of the Waste Minimisation Bill which I note has been returned to the House with unanimous support.

Thanks to the Greens, and the Local Government and Environment Select Committee which put in a lot of hard work on this bill and also to the people who put submissions in. The committee considered over 300 submissions on the Green’s original bill. And then considered a further 125 submissions on the government's Supplementary Order Paper to the bill. The result of that effort is a more workable and pragmatic piece of legislation.

The government wants New Zealand to become a sustainable nation. The passing of this new waste legislation will help in this work, as it will significantly change the way we deal with waste and move everyone towards a more sustainable use of resources.

This bill fits with other work that the Labour-led government is undertaking to improve New Zealand’s sustainability. Initiatives currently underway are the Emissions Trading Scheme, work to update the New Zealand Transport Strategy and improving the framework for managing freshwater resources, among others.

In a nutshell, this bill:
• puts a levy on all waste disposed of in a landfill, initially at $10 per tonne. Revenue from the levy will be used to help communities and businesses address waste issues.
• helps and, when necessary, makes producers, brand owners, importers, retailers, consumers and other parties take responsibility for the environmental effects of their products – from ‘cradle-to-grave’
• allows for regulations to be made on reporting on waste for territorial authorities and operators of landfills and recycling facilities to improve information on waste
• clarifies the roles and responsibilities of territorial authorities with respect to waste minimisation
• introduces a new Board to give independent advice to the Minister for the Environment on waste minimisation issues.
As part of the select committee process and following feedback from submitters, the bill now defines waste and gives it a broad meaning. The definition covers every item that is no longer wanted for its original purpose, and if it was not for waste minimisation initiatives such as recycling, the item would be thrown away.

Industry submitters proposed a narrower definition confining waste to materials that are landfilled. Industry stakeholders consider that defining waste broadly gives territorial authorities the ability to obtain commercially sensitive information from the recycling industry about the source and destination of recyclable material. However, the Bill now restricts the ability of territorial authorities to obtain such information.

The process for developing waste management and minimisation plans and the content of the plans has also been significantly changed as a result of the select committee process. There is now more guidance for territorial authorities on the information needed to inform a plan and the content of plans.

Territorial authorities must now have regard to the New Zealand Waste Strategy or other government policy on waste management and minimisation. This will ensure that plans have a degree of national consistency and will assist in achieving the goals of the strategy. The strategy provides actions and targets that territorial authorities can adopt to address waste issues.

Territorial authorities will need to carry out an assessment of current and future waste services in their district. The requirement to carry out an assessment of services is already contained in the Local Government Act 2002. It is now broadened so that territorial authorities carry out an assessment of recycling, recovery and treatment services as well as collection and disposal.

The government has been focusing on waste minimisation for some time through the New Zealand Waste Strategy. When launched in 2002, it set a new direction for minimising waste, and for improving waste recovery. It is a programme of actions for the medium term, and also has some far-reaching commitments.

Since 2002, good progress has been made. However, there are still aspects of waste where further progress is needed in order to meet these commitments.

Waste minimisation in New Zealand has been based on voluntary initiatives. To move towards zero waste, we need a more concerted effort.

The bill intends to significantly reduce the amount of waste generated and disposed of and lessen its environmental harm.

It also aims to benefit our economy by encouraging better use of materials throughout the product lifecycle, promote domestic reprocessing of recovered materials and provide more employment.

The bill emphasises investment in ‘front-of-pipe’ solutions to waste, encouraging material efficiency, innovation, and good design.

It provides a statutory basis for product stewardship, a waste disposal levy, data reporting, the establishment of a Waste Advisory Board, and clarifies the waste functions of territorial authorities.

A key element is the principle of product stewardship, which aims to reduce waste from products.

Product stewardship proposes to make producers, importers, retailers, consumers and other parties take responsibility for the environmental effects of their products – from ‘cradle-to-grave’. It is a tool with the potential to greatly improve how we deal with some of the more difficult wastes such as electronic goods.

The bill will assist and recognise businesses which develop voluntary product stewardship schemes and prove that they are taking steps to minimise environmental impacts from the manufacture, use and disposal of their product.

The bill will build on the good progress made by existing, voluntary schemes such as the Packaging Accord, Paintwise, Vodafone, Fisher and Paykel and Agrecovery. In many cases, participants have been restricted on how far they can go to make their product sustainable. Free riders, a lack of waste recovery options and not enough recognition of the impact of waste minimisation have so far constrained efforts.

This bill enables product stewardship schemes to reach their full potential. Businesses will have the opportunity for commercial gains where their products and brands stand out in the market through improved efficiency and a proven commitment to the environment.

A second element of the bill is a national levy on all waste disposed of in landfills. It will generate extra funding to set up an efficient national infrastructure to minimise waste.

Revenue from the levy will be used to help communities and businesses address waste issues. Half will go to support local authorities’ activities to minimise waste, and the remainder (minus administration costs) to a contestable fund that will promote investment in initiatives that will help more New Zealanders to reduce, reuse and recycle.

The introduction of a waste levy will help reduce waste of all types going to landfill by encouraging people to consider options to disposal. The more waste a person or organisation can divert, the less they will pay.

At present, day-to-day waste management in New Zealand is primarily the role of territorial authorities. This bill emphasises territorial authorities’ responsibilities for waste minimisation and management.

Through its regulations making powers, it can require reporting on waste by territorial authorities and operators of landfills and recycling facilities. This will improve the way we collect data and report on recycling rates and waste disposal. This will help measure progress towards the targets the government has set.

Finally, a new waste advisory board will be appointed to give independent advice to the Minister for the Environment on issues that arise under the new legislation. The board’s functions will include advising on:

• The effectiveness of the levy;
• Products that should be managed under product stewardship schemes;
• Setting the criteria for funding of projects under the contestable fund; and
• Making regulations in relation to waste information.

Because our population and consumption are predicted to grow, now is the time to substantially change the way we deal with waste in New Zealand.

This bill will provide benefits that go beyond reducing what we throw away. It will provide economic incentives and rewards for those who do ‘the right thing’.

Businesses, councils and the public will find that reducing waste can save money if less material is needed in the first place, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and new business opportunities are created.

In short, this bill provides a new opportunity to deal with waste in a smart and sustainable way and the government is pleased to support it.


ENDS

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