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WasteMINZ responds to national waste levy announcement

WasteMINZ responds to Government's national waste levy announcement

For issue 27 November 2019

Christchurch, 27 November 2019: Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage has today released proposals to tackle the country’s waste issues by increasing New Zealand’s national landfill levy scheme in both cost and breadth, and by encouraging further recycling and reuse to divert waste from landfill.

“In the past decade, people have sent nearly 30 million tonnes of waste to municipal landfills around the country – a 50 per cent increase in waste that can often be recycled, composted or reused. We can’t allow this situation to continue,” says Eugenie Sage.

The proposals include increasing the levy rate for municipal landfills taking household waste from the current $10 per tonne – set in 2009 - to $50 or $60 per tonne by mid-2023 and extending it to cover all landfill types including industrial and construction and demolition fills (but not cleanfills or farm dumps).

The additional landfill revenue will be invested in solutions that support waste reduction, such as building New Zealand-based recycling and reprocessing infrastructure to increase the quality and quantity of materials recovered, to encourage new initiatives and support community recycling centres in towns across Aotearoa.

Additionally, funds will be made available to collect better data about how waste is created and how to dispose of it.

“While Australia recovers about 55 per cent of its waste, New Zealand currently recovers 35 per cent. We know it’s currently cheaper and easier to send waste to the dump than recycle or recover materials from it. If we flip that around we create jobs in reprocessing, valuable materials are recovered and our economy becomes more efficient,” says Eugenie Sage.

The Government is seeking public feedback on these proposals in a consultation document entitled “Reducing Waste: a more effective landfill levy.”

WasteMINZ, New Zealand’s largest representative body of the waste minimisation, resource recovery and contaminated land sectors, welcomes the proposal and will be encouraging all members and their clients to contribute their views.

“It is great to see the Government consulting with the waste sector on its proposals to extend and increase the waste levy. The consultation document has clearly had some thought put to into it and, as it states, the proposals are aiming to achieve a balance between the benefits of incentivising waste minimisation and the risks associated with levy avoidance,” says WasteMINZ Chief Executive, Janine Brinsdon.

She continues, “We would certainly need to examine the consultation document in more detail and to discuss the impacts with our members - especially whether the escalation of the levy is signalled sufficiently in advance; if there is enough certainty around the rates into the future to provide industry with time and confidence to plan and invest in alternatives to disposal.”

WasteMINZ has been involved in this discussion for many years. In July 2017, the report “A Wasted Opportunity – Using the waste disposal levy to create economic and environmental advantage for Aotearoa New Zealand”, written by Eunomia Research & Consulting (NZ) and funded by the New Zealand Waste Levy Action Group and peer reviewed by WasteMINZ, was presented to the Government.

Eunomia director, Duncan Wilson, is in favour of the strong start outlined in today’s proposal and adds, “However, at first glance, we have some questions about the proposals, particularly: if the rate of the levy will be enough to incentivise diversion of key materials such as organic waste and if there is sufficient provision to avoid unintended consequences (such as more material being sent to less regulated disposal sites, or recovery operators who send contamination to landfill facing disincentives to recover certain streams of material).”

The proposal overall represents a positive shift in dealing with New Zealand’s waste challenges. As Brinsdon says, “Overall the initiative is a significant step change, and it is great the sector has the opportunity to provide input into the levy design and help ensure it can deliver the intended outcomes.”

The consultation document, to be completed by 3 February 2020, can be accessed on http://www.mfe.govt.nz/consultations/landfill-levy.


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