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Waste Disposal Levy Could Create 9,000 Jobs

A report commissioned by a consortium of public and private sector organisations representing a broad spectrum of interests in the waste sector has suggested that key changes to the Waste Disposal Levy could divert 3 million tonnes of waste from landfill per annum, whilst creating up to 9,000 jobs and delivering $500 million in net benefit to the New Zealand economy per annum.

The report “A Wasted Opportunity – Using the waste disposal levy to create economic and environmental advantage for Aotearoa New Zealand” was written by Eunomia Research & Consulting and funded by the New Zealand Waste Levy Action Group.

The report looked at what effect changes to the waste disposal levy could have. It concluded that there would be sizable benefits for employment and in terms of recycling if key changes were made.

Dr Dominic Hogg, Founder and Chairman of the UK-headquartered Eunomia Research & Consulting, said "Whilst other countries ask how they make progress towards a circular economy, the low rate of the levy in New Zealand entrenches a 'take-make-dispose' model of production. New Zealand's levy rate, set at $10 per tonne of waste, is among the lowest of any country with a landfill levy in place. Overseas experience suggests that there are significant benefits to having a higher rate of levy, and to applying the levy more widely.”

“Landfill levies can have a positive effect on the economy, inducing more efficient use of resources, and supporting employment generation. The argument for expanding and increasing the levy, and for a significantly higher rate than its current default rate of $10 per tonne, is compelling" says Dr Hogg.

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Important changes that together would realise these benefits include:

• Extending the levy to all landfill types
• Different rates for active and inert waste
• A substantial increase in the levy for active waste
• Escalating the levy rates over time to allow industry time to plan and adapt
• Developing a comprehensive monitoring and enforcement approach
• Targeted investment of levy income

Grahame Christian, Managing Director of recycling firm Smart Environmental and spokesperson for the New Zealand Waste Levy Action Group, says the report confirms what the industry has known for some time.

“Waste is a significant issue in New Zealand. We generate some 15.5 million tonnes of waste each year. That’s 3,200 kg for every man, woman and child, and right now we only recycle 28% of this, well behind other OECD countries. This is simply not good enough for a nation which trades on the basis of its environmental credentials,” says Christian.

“Making key changes to the levy could increase our recycling rate to 60%, making us a world leader all while creating jobs and delivering a net benefit of some $500 million per annum. It’s a win for the environment and a win for the economy; this is why it should be a matter of priority for the government.”

The changes recommended would also have significant benefits for the local government sector.

Councillor Penny Hulse, Chair of Auckland Council’s Environment and Community Committee, has long known that the waste levy is too low and too narrow to be effective in Auckland.

“The changes signalled will greatly increase levy funding, which if invested wisely, will support local communities, Councils and the industry at large to invest in strategic regional infrastructure and programmes, ensuring we move towards our aspirational goal of zero waste,” says Hulse.

“We do however recognise that changes in levy will have different effects in different regions, and so we call on the Government to map out a levy pathway which works effectively for the whole of New Zealand.”

Darren Patterson, Chair of the Waste Management Institute New Zealand (WasteMINZ), says “it’s unprecedented and exciting to see this level of cooperation from across all sectors of the waste and recycling industry. Research undertaken by WasteMINZ shows that of 93% Kiwis believe waste and recycling is an important environmental issue, yet only 29% think we do a good job. Clearly, there is a disconnect between the public’s expectation and what we as a nation are currently delivering.”

“For me, one of the key outcomes of the study was that there needed to be a targeted investment strategy for the levy income generated. This will ensure that the funds are used wisely to deliver innovative infrastructure and programmes to support waste minimisation,” says Patterson.

The New Zealand Waste Levy Action Group contends that the Waste Disposal Levy is currently a wasted opportunity and calls on the Government to adopt the recommendations made in the report, in particular, to make broadening levy coverage and increasing its rate over time a key environmental priority.

The summary of A Wasted Opportunity can be read here:

A high-resolution infographic summarising the key findings can be downloaded here:


About the New Zealand Waste Levy Action Group: The New Zealand Waste Levy Action Group, are a consortium of public and private sector organisations who provided funding to this report, they represent a broad spectrum of interests in the waste sector.
The levy is $10 per tonne (excluding GST) on all waste sent to landfill. The levy was introduced under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008. Disposal facility operators must pay the levy based on the weight of material disposed of at their facility. However, they may pass this cost on to the waste producer such as households and businesses. For more on the levy please visit

About Eunomia Research & Consulting:

View the full report here:

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