19 Aug 2018

Greens want to tackle waste by increasing landfill levies

6:52 pm on 19 August 2018

The Green Party wants to increase the cost of dumping rubbish at landfills but National is warning a levy hike could encourage people to dump waste illegally.

Eugenie Sage speaking at the Green party conference

Eugenie Sage speaking at the Green party conference Photo: RNZ/ Gia Garrick

Green MP and Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage announced a new work programme on waste at the party's annual conference, which has been signed off by Cabinet.

She revealed the programme of changes to the Waste Minimisation Act to party faithful in Palmerston North.

The goal is to reduce the amount of rubbish going to landfills in New Zealand, as the amount of waste at landfills increases worldwide.

Ms Sage said New Zealand had been left "woefully unprepared" for the impact of China's decision to close its borders to the world's waste.

"We're at a tipping point - the point where we need to stop so much going to the tip," she said.

The public will be asked whether they think the current levy of $10 per tonne on waste taken to landfills, should be higher.

Only 11 percent of landfills are presently covered by the $10 levy and the Greens are looking at expanding that to all of the country's landfills.

Ms Sage said such levies provided an economic incentive to divert materials away from landfill.

Green MPs also plan to make it tougher for people to dump tyres and lithium batteries at landfills.

Other changes flagged could see companies having to pay to have waste like tyres, agrichemicals, synthetic greenhouse gases and e-waste, collected and recycled.

Ms Sage said a big part of the work will be increasing the country's local processing capacity for recyclables.

They will have technical experts identifying priority sectors where waste can be significantly reduced and where change can be made in the overall supply chain.

The work programme also means landfill operators will now be required to report on the composition and quality of waste, and councils and the private sector will also contribute to better monitoring the country's waste data.

Will levy hike encourage more dumpers?

National Party environment spokesperson Scott Simpson said people could dump waste illegally if the government raised waste levies by too much.

"If people don't have access or feel it's too expensive to go to the landfills, to the refuse transfer station, they sadly and wrongly just throw stuff over the side of a cliff or down a bank."

Scott Simpson said the government hadn't acted on the former government's plan to expand the waste levy, and tyre disposal scheme announced 10 months ago.

"I challenge Ms Sage to get on and complete the work that we started, instead of announcing more reviews and talkfests."

Meanwhile, Local Government New Zealand President Dave Cull said there was overwhelming support for expanding the waste disposal levy so that it applied to more landfills.

Local Government leaders also strongly support a comprehensive and mandatory product stewardship programme for tyres.

Mr Cull said the plans had the potential to significantly reduce all types of waste.

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