Work underway to tackle recycling and waste problems in Aotearoa

By Jessica Tyson

A new taskforce has been set up by the Ministry for the Environment and local government to tackle problems resulting from China's ban on importing recyclables.

At a conference run by Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) over the weekend, the association voted to support several proposals to tackle the issue.

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage says one of the first actions to be taken is an urgent review of the country's collection and processing services.

"The government is using funds from the waste levy on landfills to invest in projects to reduce waste volumes and increase our onshore processing capacity,” says Sage.

"Officials are also working on how to better implement the Waste Minimisation Act, including expanding the waste levy to more landfills, and improving the data we have on recyclables and waste generally.”

The move comes after China's ban on importing recyclables, which has created challenges around waste management.

"New Zealand was sending 15 million kg overseas annually- mainly mixed paper and mixed plastics.  China's ban means that prices for the recyclable material in remaining markets have dropped dramatically. Sending our waste overseas is not the answer,” says Sage.

Work is also underway to reduce the environmental harm of products, such as end-of-life tyres.

“A mandatory product stewardship scheme would see producers, retailers and consumers all helping fund and deal with the problem.” 

Meanwhile, plastic bags are also a problem with an estimated 1.5 billion used each year in New Zealand.

Sage says in coming months the government will announce their plan for dealing with the single-use plastic bag problem.