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Govt seeking feedback on dealing with harmful waste

Govt seeking feedback on dealing with harmful waste

Environment Minister Amy Adams today released a discussion document on possible options to improve the way some waste products are managed in New Zealand, especially those which can cause harm to the environment.

The Government is considering whether it should intervene to improve the management of four product waste streams – electrical and electronic equipment, tyres, agrichemicals and farm plastics, and refrigerants and other synthetic greenhouse gases.

“I am concerned about the risk of environmental harm from having tens of thousands of tonnes of waste products dumped in landfill unnecessarily,” Ms Adams says.

“For example, it is estimated that each year up to three million mobile phones become obsolete in New Zealand. Of those, only about 2 per cent are recycled.
“There are also millions of computers potentially being sent to landfill. Nearly eight million computers were in New Zealand homes and businesses in 2010. All of these computers will reach the end of their life at some stage, accelerated by rapid moves to new technology.

“Tyres also pose a significant problem for the environment. New Zealand imports more than five million vehicle tyres every year, replacing worn tyres which are then disposed of. More than 70 per cent of the disposed tyres go to some form of landfill.”

Since passing the Waste Minimisation Act (WMA) five years ago, the Government has encouraged voluntary product stewardship efforts as a first priority. Over this time, 11 voluntary product stewardship schemes have been accredited by the Government.

Product stewardship is when responsibility for the environmental effects that products can cause in their life cycle is shared among all sectors involved with the product.

Under the 11 voluntary schemes, more than 70,000 tonnes of waste has been diverted from landfill for recycling or safe destruction.

“These are good results, but this only equates to 1.4 per cent of the total waste stream going to disposal facilities.

“While the focus in New Zealand has been on voluntary schemes, in my view, the time has come to seriously consider appropriate mandatory approaches for selected priority waste streams.”

The first step in the process is to consult on whether the Government has correctly identified the four waste streams outlined in the discussion document as priorities for action, or whether there are other priorities the Government should focus on.

“I want to make clear that final decisions on regulations or product stewardship scheme design will not be made solely as a result of this consultation.

“The Government wants the decision process to be deliberate, well-informed and transparent.

“The next steps will be to consider in detail a range of options, including those recommended by industry working groups.

“This process would include close analysis of short-term and long-term economic, environmental and social costs and benefits, and consultation with potentially affected parties.

“Only after that would the Government consider what interventions, if any, to propose.”


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