Local councils have backed a move by the Government to reduce the mountain of rubbish going to landfills and force companies to take more responsibility for their waste.
Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage announced today that Cabinet had signed off on work to look at a number of waste minimisation measures including expanding and increasing the levy for taking waste to landfills.
It will also consider making companies take more responsibility for the waste their industry creates, from production to disposal. Tyres and lithium batteries will be first.
The work will also look at requiring landfill operators to report on the composition and quantity of waste, and obtaining data from councils and the private sector on how much is reduced, reused and recycled.
"Councils across the country have been undertaking their own waste management and minimisation initiatives but to really make headway against the rising tide of waste, local and central government need to work in partnership," Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) president Dave Cull said.
LGNZ supported expanding the waste disposal levy to apply to more landfills, adopting a national waste data framework and implementing a comprehensive and mandatory product stewardship programme for tyres.
"Right now the tools and incentives that councils have to manage waste better are insufficient to deal with the volume generated. The waste disposal levy is only applied at 11 per cent of the country's landfills, and the information about what is going into landfill isn't being captured," Cull said in a statement.
Sage, who made the announcement at the Green Party's annual general meeting in Palmerston North, said little action had been taken over the past decade while the amount of waste going to landfills was increasing.
There are only 15 voluntary product stewardship schemes at present, for products like glass and agrichemical containers.
"I want to include some mandatory product stewardship schemes in that mix, starting with tyres. New Zealand creates 4.6 million end-of-life tyres each year. Right now, an estimated 70 per cent of them are either stockpiled, sent to landfill, or illegally dumped," Sage said.
There have been calls to increase the $10 a tonne levy, which applies to only around 11 per cent of waste disposal facilities, to as much as $140 a tonne. The levy in New South Wales for example is more than $A120 a tonne. Sage would not say what she would like to see the levy go up to, saying she wanted to see what the Ministry for the Environment work produced.
Sage said construction and demolition waste accounted for an estimated 85 per cent of the waste stream but the levy applied to mostly metropolitan landfills.
The expanded levy and increased price per tonne is likely to come into force in early 2020, following public consultation.
The waste industry has said a crisis is looming if action is not taken to deal with the recycling piling up in New Zealand as a result of China's decision to stop taking recycling from other countries, including New Zealand.
"We're at a tipping point – the point where we need to stop so much going to the tip," Sage said.
National's Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson said a potential massive increase to the actual levy rate was another tax that would hurt households.
"The National government announced a scheme last year to deal with end of life tyres, including funding options for their collection and disposal. We also consulted on a national environment standard for the outdoor storage of tyres. That was 10 months ago and we've heard nothing from this Government since," he said in a statement.