New Zealand could learn lessons from Denmark, a country with a similar-sized population that has cut its landfills by more than 1000 in the past 30 years, says a visiting waste management expert.
Peter Heydorn, a Danish environmental engineer, said 70 per cent of Denmark's waste was recycled.
Only 6 per cent of the country's waste went to landfill and a quarter of all waste was incinerated to create energy, which was less polluting than the burning of oil or coal.
Mr Heydorn told the Herald there were lessons in the Danish Waste Model for New Zealand which had the right mindset but could, for instance, do with more recycling facilities.
In Denmark, a country of 5.4 million, there were 340 recycling sites where the public could take all kinds of waste, including hazardous, and be assisted with how to divide it up among the appropriate bins.
"It has been a huge success."
Only non-recyclable waste was allowed to be sent to landfill and there were a range of fines where breaches of policy were discovered.
Mr Heydorn was encouraged at New Zealand's introduction of a $10 per tonne levy on material sent to landfill in the recently passed waste minimisation legislation, but noted the equivalent taxes in Denmark were about 10 times higher.
The Danish model had 21 landfills now compared to 1140 in 1970.
Mr Heydorn said Denmark was way ahead of other European countries in keeping waste sent to landfills to a minimum. Taxes from landfills went towards inventing new models and technologies for recycling.
Denmark had also achieved 99 per cent recycling of green waste from parks and gardens and all households were offered a free compostor.
Mr Heydorn said it was critical to uncouple waste growth from economic growth.
There needed to be goal setting and planning at the national level and waste management and implementation at the local levels.
In Denmark there was often collective treatment of waste between municipalities, he said.
The Ministry for the Environment in New Zealand reports there are 62 identified landfills in the country.