If there was ever any doubt about the Government's level of commitment to climate change initiatives, then the 2022 Budget put that to rest.
In the Budget the Government allocated $2.9 billion across the forecast period for the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF). That is a serious amount of money by any standard. It comes in addition to pre-Budget commitments of $865 million of operational spending relating to the Paris Agreement and for the Government's Investment in Decarbonising Industry Fund.
The first tranche of investment in climate change mitigation establishes a number of key work programmes that are detailed in their Emissions Reduction Plan. Particularly notable investments in the Budget 2022 CERF package include $1.3 billion for the transport sector, $692m for the energy sector and $380m for the agriculture sector.
Also included within the Emissions Reduction Plan are initiatives that seek to reduce and divert organic waste from landfills and enable emissions to be reduced through improved recycling systems. Key to this is the Government's new recycling plan across the country that attempts to make recycling less confusing.
The Ministry for the Environment's proposed Transforming Recycling plan includes 20 cents return scheme for most drink containers, though excludes dairy. It's one of three key elements in the proposal to reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill.
The other two proposals in the plan are for standardised kerbside recycling collections across all regions and for households and businesses to separate food scraps from general waste. There is a $103m amount allocated within the funding package to facilitate and implement the plan.
Taranaki produces over 200,000 tonnes of organic material per year which requires management. Some commercial/industrial organic material is already captured through established recovery systems including formal processing operations and informal arrangements such as stock feed.
Some organic material from primary processing is applied to land and a number of waste processors in the region effectively reprocess waste material and deliver a product to market.
Obviously, councils are key stakeholders when it comes to waste management and historically, the weekly household refuse collection is the main source of council waste. In the case of the Stratford District Council, around 65 per cent of the waste collected (by weight) is either green waste or food scraps.
Diverting this away from the landfill at Bonny Glen would result in a huge saving in transport costs, reduce emissions and save on the Government landfill levies that are set to rise from $20 per tonne currently to $60 per tonne in July 2024.
But the net savings are reduced somewhat by additional collection costs and processing of the waste collected. Both are expensive components in any recycling system.
So, what do you do with the tonnes and tonnes of organic waste collected every year? We are at the point when a clear strategy is essential. The three district councils across the Taranaki region are already working collaboratively on developing an integrated, regional approach. This will be a plan that includes environmental benefits, employment and commercial opportunities.
Key to the long-term success will be the infrastructure set up, including collection points, and whether there is a centralised processing site or a network of community and commercial facilities across the region.
The proximity to the larger sources of waste is an important factor, for example, producers like Fonterra, Anzco and Osflo need to be factored into our thinking. All options are on the table at present and no decisions have been made.
Following on from that, are the questions about what type of products can be made and marketed? It goes way beyond just compost. Options include vermiculture, bark and wood chip, stock feed, along with utilising more modern technologies like pyrolysis and biofuel to name but a few.
Over the coming months, the intent is to further develop the proposals for waste minimisation focusing on green waste, food scraps and organic materials. Decisions and implementation will follow, but it is a journey and it will take some time.
Diverting organic waste streams from landfills has many long-term benefits and involves significant sums of money; we need to get it right.