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Taking waste minimisation to the next level

26 September 2008 Speech

Taking waste minimisation to the next level

Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. This has been quite a memorable couple of weeks for everyone involved in waste minimisation. We now have new legislation, solely dedicated to waste minimisation – a first for New Zealand.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who was involved in getting the Act through the legislative process and making it into what it is today. This has only been possible because the issue of waste minimisation has galvanised support from across the spectrum of New Zealand politics, business and communities, mainly because everyone can see it’s just good common sense.

We now have legislation which the government will start to implement over the next few years. We will still need your support while doing this as certain details of how the legislation will be implemented are still to be worked out. This relates especially to the waste levy and product stewardship regulations. But I expect to have a Waste Advisory Board appointed soon, and from there I hope implementation of the Act will proceed quickly.

The Act provides a new legislative framework for waste minimisation and the management of waste in New Zealand, and will help New Zealand work towards sustainability.

A major shift in the Act is moving the focus from waste disposal to waste minimisation – reducing waste through activities such as resource recovery, recycling and avoiding waste in the first place. The Act will significantly change the way we deal with waste.

Earlier this month, new data was published to show that New Zealanders are doing better and better when it comes to domestic recycling. This does raise the bar for finding good uses and new markets for recycled and recovered material, preferably here in New Zealand.

The new Act is very much about putting instruments in place to encourage the development of efficient markets for recovered and recycled resources.

Along with initiatives like the recent expansion of the Labour-led government's LoveNZ recycling bin network in public places, resource recovery parks will help in establishing the infrastructure we need to take our waste minimisation efforts to the next level.

So I am particularly pleased to be at an event celebrating the release of the Resource Recovery Park Design Guide, a tool that central government helped fund, that the industry itself - through WasteMINZ - masterminded, and that private consulting engineers wrote.

The guide aims to assist in the professional development of new resource recovery parks, and the optimisation of existing parks. The way I see it, it will be hugely beneficial for both local authorities and private commercial companies, as well as the general public with the latter having a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all their unwanted old goods and recyclables.

The benefits for local authorities lie mostly in not having to re-invent the wheel, and therefore being able to set up parks at the lowest cost possible, and making use of best practice principles.

As I understand it, the guide also provides a framework for cooperation between private business and local authorities to work together to minimise the wastage of useful items and resources.

Building flexibility into recovery parks mean that they will be able to continue to adapt as the waste stream changes over time, and as our priorities for resource recovery change.

Taking care of our environment is important to the Labour-led government as we believe that high environmental standards are integral to New Zealand’s identity, social development and international competitiveness.

There has been significant investment and work going on to date under Helen's leadership to secure New Zealand’s sustainable future. As well as investment in public recycling and carbon neutrality programmes in the public sector, we have implemented clean heating, insulation, and other energy efficiency measures to provide New Zealanders with warmer, drier homes. We have bought back KiwiRail, and are investing in public transport, and we are implementing an energy strategy that focuses on renewables.

And of course we introduced the Emissions Trading Scheme, along with a billion dollar fund to help households as the scheme rolls out.

Our government in contrast to National is not afraid of showing leadership on this front. John Key is actually on record as a climate change sceptic so with that sort of history it is impossible to believe or trust what he says on the issue, as with his pronouncements in other areas. The only reason National wants to delay the scheme is to help its big polluter special interests.

Labour has a plan of action for the future when it comes to the environment – and it is one that people can trust us to deliver on.

Tackling the serious issue of waste is part of this work and the Resource Recovery Park Design Guide will be useful for communities around the country as they work to put efficient and profitable resource recovery parks in place.

Because that’s what it’s all about: making resource recovery profitable. And the easier we can make it for all parties to set up effective infrastructure - like a resource recovery park, with minimal compliance costs - the more successful we will be in diverting valuable resources from landfill.

With the Act and product stewardship regulation in place, I expect that demand for resource recovery parks will continue to increase. When products are given ‘priority product’ status under the Act, certain manufacturers, importers and retailers will be obliged to participate in product stewardship schemes to reduce waste and its impact on the environment.

Of course, we all hope that industry will take that initiative off their own bat first, and will develop or join in with product stewardship schemes voluntarily.

Designing and producing lower waste, easily recoverable and recyclable products will become the most profitable way to do business in the twenty-first century. And the sooner businesses embrace that reality, the more successful they will be.

Before I end, I would like to note that instruments like legislation can only go so far. Education is a huge part of building a ‘zero waste’ mentality for New Zealanders. Well-designed and well-run resource recovery parks have a huge part to play in establishing that mindset in our communities, and I look forward to the results this will have for future generations in terms of their attitude to waste.

I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the making of the guide, in particular the people from WasteMINZ who coordinated the project and are doing a lot to raise standards across the waste industry. I hope to see a speedy uptake in the set-up of professional, viable resource recovery parks all over New Zealand as a result.

Thank you.


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