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Government action needed to avert recycling crisis

The New Zealand recycling sector is calling on the Government to take strong and positive action to avert our national recycling crisis, reboot recycling, and create a circular economy in Aotearoa.

Today, the sector has released a discussion document titled Rebooting Recycling - What can Aotearoa do? The document outlines a range of both short and long-term actions the Government should consider.

You can download the discussion document here: bit.ly/RebootRecycling
Background:

The market for recycled materials has collapsed because China is no longer accepting the quantity of material for recycling that they used to.

The reduction in demand has seen prices for recyclable materials fall dramatically. Sellers of these commodities have sought other markets, but there is not sufficient capacity currently in the plants outside of China to process all the materials. This has meant stockpiles are building up and some material may not be able to find an end market.

Discussion document:

In early May a group of key stakeholders from New Zealand’s recycling sector met to share their experiences and to provide information, which has helped to inform this discussion document.

Paul Evans, Chief Executive of WasteMINZ, said the collapse in international recycling markets has left the recycling sector in New Zealand in a vulnerable position.

“Without positive action to address the issue, recyclable material could be sent to landfill, councils and communities will suffer financially, and operators could go out of business” said Evans.

Action is needed from the Government; this issue will not resolve quickly or by itself. Short-term fixes, while important, will not be enough on their own.

Actions that need to happen now include:

• access to funding, to ensure recyclables aren’t sent to landfill
• facilitating national communications, and
• gathering better data on recyclable materials
Other actions that will take longer, but that will help build a more robust system and deliver a circular economy include:
• revising the national waste strategy,
• changes to the waste disposal levy,
• product stewardship and design regulations,
• ongoing public communications, and
• a positive approach to public sector procurement of recycled products

“While there is a lot to do, everything that has been set out in this discussion paper can be achieved using existing funding sources and legislation. The sector is engaged and willing to work positively with the Government to ensure these things happen. But we need decisive action” said Evans.

Finally, this crisis also represents an opportunity, the opportunity to build a new system that can deliver better outcomes for our communities, our environment, and our economy.

Together we can reboot recycling and create a circular economy for Aotearoa.
Summary Points:

• The market for recycled materials has collapsed because China is, in effect, shutting out the world’s recyclables.

• Many councils and recycling operators in New Zealand are struggling to cope due to the lack of markets and lower income.

Action is required - this issue will not resolve quickly or by itself.

• This is a great chance to move to a better model, one that works.

• Moving to a better model will require everyone to work together.

• The government must consider some short-term actions including enabling access to levy funding, communications and getting better data.

• The government must also consider medium to long-term actions that will start to build a circular economy. Actions like revising the national waste strategy, changes to the waste disposal levy, product stewardship and design regulations, ongoing communications and positive public procurement.

• All actions proposed can be achieved within current legislation. Similarly, the funding mechanisms already exist.

ends

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