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Shameful $19 Million Clean-up Bill For Taxpayers

Environment Minister Nick Smith today provided a little good news and far more frustratingly bad news for our shameful national scrap tyre problem.

The good news? Mr Smith has admitted New Zealand has a “long-standing problem” dealing with the five million scrap tyres produced every year.

The bad news? He’s spending $19 million of taxpayer funds on a short-term band-aid that helps private companies burn and shred tyres. While this money may subsidise operating costs for a few big businesses, it won’t stop irresponsible, illegal tyre dumping or cut the resulting public health and environmental costs.

Community Recycling Network chairman Marty Hoffart says the real solution lies in regulation that compels tyre companies to recycle tyres responsibly. They are 100% recyclable.

“It’s utterly exasperating that the minister won’t do the right thing,” Mr Hoffart says.

“Tyre companies want this legislation, councils and environmentalists have been begging him for it for years. Countless studies show it’s the best way to deal with scrap tyres and it’s what already happens in Canada, Europe, Japan and almost every other OECD nation.”

Mr Hoffart says a compulsory product stewardship scheme would ensure that producers and consumers rather than taxpayers covered the cost of re-using or recycling tyres courtesy of an existing disposal charge we currently pay to purchase new tyres. Every tyre sold would already have the recycling paid for.

The charge is already there. We all pay it. All the Minister has to do is redirect it to a regulated programme. We are not talking about any new money or any public funds.

“Right now, tyre shops are charging a supposed recycling fee of about $4 to $5 per tyre but, in the absence of legislation, most of that money is not going towards recycling. They don’t have to and this announcement is not going to change it. We know this because more than 75% of all tyres are dumped either illegally or in landfills.”

He says the government’s latest proposal offers no incentive to tyre shops to change their current practice or behaviour.

“Why would a business in Nelson or Whanganui suddenly pay to ship their scrap tyres to Golden Bay Cement in Whangarei, when they can cut them up and stick them in a skip bin or can pay a dodgy guy with a truck $1 a tyre to dump them out of sight on a construction site, vacant land or down the nearest gully?

They will continue to go to the cheapest disposal point until the Minister uses regulation to change that. The government needs to look past voluntary schemes because that is what they are proposing yet again and it hasn’t worked anywhere in the world for scrap tyres.

“Instead of using regulation to fix the problem, our government is using tax dollars to throw at problem their bad policy has created. It’s shameful.”


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