Government spending $124m on waste management, landfill levy increasing six-fold

Eugenie Sage announced $124m of spending on waste management.
Eugenie Sage announced $124m of spending on waste management. Photo credit: Getty Images / Newshub

The Government is putting $124 million into plastic recycling and reprocessing plants, and the waste levy is set to dramatically increase by 2025.

Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage made the announcement on Wednesday and said the changes are part of the COVID-19 response and recovery fund (CRRF).

It's set to reduce landfill waste by investing in recycling plants, weighbridges for improved waste data collection and improved material and community resource recovery plants. It will also create "hundreds" of permanent jobs and incomes throughout New Zealand.

The waste levy will be progressively expanded from July 1, 2022 to cover additional landfill types, including construction and demolition fills. The waste levy currently only applies to municipal landfills that take household waste, with no levy on the remaining nearly 90 percent of landfills.

The levy rate for landfills that take waste will also progressively increase over four years from July 1, 2021 from $10 per tonne to $60 per tonne. Implementation timelines will be confirmed later this year.

Additional revenue created from the waste levy will be invested in initiatives that support waste reduction, Sage says, such as building New Zealand-based recycling infrastructure. This would include helping businesses that take construction, commercial and industrial waste materials and repurpose them so they aren't thrown away.

"This up-front funding and investment in waste and recycling infrastructure will speed progress in filling the major gaps in our waste infrastructure while phasing in an expanded and increased waste levy," Sage says.

"Expanding and increasing the waste levy is one of the best tools we have to incentivise reduced waste to landfill and prevent valuable resources from being thrown away. We are making it easier for households and businesses to do the right thing."

Data will also be collected about waste that's being created and how it's being disposed so it can be better managed.

"Incredibly, New Zealand currently has one of the highest rates of waste production per capita in the developed world, punching way above our weight in the wrong direction," she says.

"Expanding the levy will help recognise the real costs of waste, make it fairer for everyone, and incentivise materials reuse and recycling, rather than just 'taking it to the tip'. The CRRF investment will also provide people with better options for recycling their waste."

Eugenie Sage.
Eugenie Sage. Photo credit: Getty Images

But National Party environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says the waste increase is "another tax" on New Zealanders.

"This is going to make it too expensive for people to use their local tips, and instead they'll realise it's cheaper to dump it illegally," Simpson says.

"Fly-tipping is already a huge problem in New Zealand, and knee-jerk price hikes like this only make it worse. It's typical of this clumsy Government to just hit the tax button instead of looking into sensible alternatives, like waste to energy schemes which are used in other countries."

ACT Party environment spokesperson Simon Court says the Government's initiatives "won't solve New Zealand's landfill crisis".

"Households and businesses will now pay $60 a tonne to send waste to landfill at a time when we need to increase business productivity and return to growth. Meanwhile, red tape denies New Zealanders access to the technology that solved the landfill crisis in Europe in fewer than 15 years," Seymour says.

"Labour banned modern waste incinerators in 2005 and getting a permit for waste to energy under the Resource Management Act (RMA) is now almost impossible. As a result, New Zealand buries 3.5 million tonnes of waste in landfills every single year, one million tonnes more than in 2005."

Instead, he says ACT backs a method that was used in Europe.

"In the UK, 44 waste incinerators burned 10.9 million tonnes of rubbish last year, much of it in England, where it accounted for 42 percent of rubbish disposal.

"ACT supports this approach, because we know recycling and waste minimisation alone will never solve New Zealand’s landfill crisis."

He says it would repeal the RMA amendment which currently bans incineration and makes it "impossible" to get a permit for waste to energy.