Circular Economy Central To Climate Change Plan
The Zero Waste Network of Aotearoa is relieved to see the prominence of the circular economy in the government’s Emissions Reduction Plan, which was released for consultation today.
“We know from the 2021 Circularity Gap report that the Global Economy is about 8.6% circular at the moment and we need to double that by 2032 to have a chance of staying within 1.5 degrees of warming,” said Sue Coutts, spokesperson for the Zero Waste Network of Aotearoa.
“Waste and emissions are symptoms of inefficiency in our economy. Capturing and reusing resources, and reducing waste, will be an essential part of reducing unnecessary carbon emissions in the future.
The Draft Emissions Reduction Plan establishes the Circular Economy as a key cross sector tool to align all our efforts and systems toward emissions reductions
Ms Coutts said focusing on Circular Economy strategies will target the 45% of emissions generated through the production of goods and products.
“Making and selling products and materials creates emissions at every step along the way. Extraction damages ecosystems which reduces the ability of forests and wetlands around the world to absorb CO2.”
“By making stuff last longer and recovering resources to be made into new stuff, we can reduce emissions in many parts of the supply chain: including extraction, transport, manufacturing and waste disposal.
“We know there are many more jobs in resource recovery than in waste disposal, so a circular economy will help create the green jobs of the future.”
“One thing that’s missing from the Draft Emissions Reduction Plan is any direction on which Minister and Agency is going to be responsible for driving the Circular Economy Agenda which was a recommendation in the Climate Commission’s advice to the Government back in May.”
Ms Coutts said the Draft Emissions Reduction Plan is also lacking tools to make our production and consumption system more responsible.
“We need to make much better use of tools like Mandatory Product Stewardship which takes us back up the recovery and supply chains to find the best places to introduce more circular use of materials and slow down the flow of goods and materials.
“A comprehensive product stewardship toolkit is a critical driver for making the shift to a circular economy. We expect regulatory and legislative support for this to come through the review of the NZ waste strategy and the Waste Minimisation Act which will be consulted on in the next few months.”
“We need this regulatory framework in place so we can finally get robust and sustainable product stewardship schemes off the ground for products like-waste and beverage containers.”
Ms Coutts said the target for reducing disposal of organics needs to be much higher in the final Emissions Reduction Plan. There’s also no target for reducing food waste at source, which is identified as one of the most effective global climate solutions by Project Drawdown.
“Methane emissions from organics in landfill are about 4% of our total emissions profile, and this is an easy win.”
“It’s good the government is looking at eventually banning organic waste from landfills, but there’s a lot more that can be done in the meantime.”
“The best way to reduce these emissions is to separate out any food and organic waste that can’t be avoided in the first place and find resource recovery solutions that can add benefit. Food scraps and garden trimmings should be composted so they can restore the soil. Wood waste can be used to replace fossil fuels for process heat.“
Ban on large-scale incineration of household waste for energy
Ms Coutts said a ban on large-scale incineration of household waste should be included in the final Emissions Reduction Plan, as it is incompatible with the shift to a circular economy.
Europe is moving away from incineration of household waste, recognising that it provides perverse incentives against waste reduction, and has also resulted in potentially recyclable materials being burnt.
Overseas companies are now actively looking for new countries with less stringent environmental laws to build new rubbish incinerators , with proposals on the table in small regional communities promising jobs and development.
Currently there are no incinerators in New Zealand.
“It would be nothing short of ridiculous to build an incinerator in New Zealand at this point, right when Europe is moving away from them” said Ms Coutts.
“We’d be locking in old technology that works against the emissions and waste reductions that we’re looking for,” said Ms Coutts.
It wouldn’t make any sense to reduce fossil fuels for transport and heating, but continue to rely on single use plastic packaging made from oil and gas and transported around the world, and then burn it in an incinerator which releases CO2.”
“The Zero Waste Network will be actively participating in the consultation process and will be encouraging our member organisations and supporters to submit on the plan. We have real solutions to address waste and climate change right now, and we look forward to putting forward our vision of a zero waste, zero carbon Aotearoa New Zealand.”
“Zero Waste Network members across the country are doing what they can at the local scale to adapt to and mitigate climate change but it is the big structural changes that will really make the difference.”
With COP 26 on everyone's radar it is a relief that the Government is taking the next step to lock in a comprehensive New Zealand response to climate change.