It is hoped that an overhaul of the country’s waste management system will reduce the roughly 13 million tonnes of waste that New Zealand sends to landfill each year.
The Transforming Recycling plan includes a national recycling system, a program to encourage people to recycle bottles, and universal curbside food waste collection.
Environment Minister David Parker unveiled the proposal in Auckland this morning and said New Zealand’s current waste management systems were inadequate.
“Each year, New Zealand generates over 17 million tonnes of waste…It is estimated that nationally only 28% of materials are recycled and the rest is landfilled. In contrast, the Germany, Austria and Wales have the highest recycling rates in the world, with over 50% of all waste recycled,” he said.
Parker said the aim of the new system is to make comprehensive waste management services accessible to all New Zealanders and he used his own situation to illustrate the point.
“I would say my recycling at my home in Auckland is pretty good, but the recycling I do at my apartment in Wellington is poor. To make sure my recyclables get recycled, I actually have to put them to work.” he said.
“I think it’s an example of how these things need to be standardized so that I can do just as well in my flat in Wellington as I do at home in Auckland.”
New changes announced today include curbside food waste collection for all homes and businesses by 2030.
Parker said leftover food accounts for more than a third of a typical household’s waste each week and creates greenhouse gas emissions when sent to landfill.
Methane is released when food decomposes in landfills and it will never be possible to recover all that gas, he said.
“Providing access to door-to-door food scrap collections is a simple step to reducing emissions and returning nutrients to the soil,” he added.
Bottles, too, have been targeted for a recycling program.
“Over two billion beverages are sold each year in New Zealand. Less than half of these containers are recycled, meaning over a billion containers end up as waste, are stored or sent to landfill each year. “, explained Parker.
A bottle deposit system will allow people to receive 20 cents per bottle they deposit at designated collection sites.
He said some of the machines would work like an ATM, taking the bottles in exchange for cash.
Dairies and supermarkets can also be used as collection points.
“The container deposit system will reduce beverage container waste by more than 50% – that’s the experience overseas. It’s a big drop and some of that waste created is quite hazardous, with broken glass and such,” Parker said.
Queensland recently introduced the same system and its Productivity Commission found it cost 93 cents per household per month to set it up, he said.
With the proposed system in place, beverage container recycling rates could be more than doubled.
Parker declined to comment on the total cost of the redesign, but said some of the initial infrastructure costs, such as purchasing and installing bottle depots, would come from the existing Waste Levy Fund.
The National Party said the recycling plan was a long time coming, but still lacks details.
Environment spokesman Scott Simpson said Labor had done very little to tackle recycling in the five years it was in office.
“In concept and in principle, these are three good initiatives that we would like to support if we can. It surprises me that a government that talks about a big game on environmental issues is still talking only about reducing the volume, the vast volume, of things we send to landfill every year.”
Public comments on the plan are encouraged and are open from today until May 8 on the Department of Environment’s website.