17 Jan 2018

Revealed: Kiwis generate 734kg of waste each per year

6:51 am on 17 January 2018

The government is vowing to cut the amount of waste New Zealanders create, which is estimated to be among the highest in the developed world.

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Photo: RNZ / Teresa Cowie

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage wants a review into the Waste Minimisation Act, which was created in 2008 to reduce the amount of harmful waste created and disposed of in New Zealand.

New Zealanders currently generate about 734kg of waste each per year. That amount has increased by around 20 percent over the past three years.

Zero-waste New Zealand director Jo Knight said a review of the Waste Minimisation Act was well overdue.

"The Act itself was aimed at reducing waste and it clearly hasn't worked."

Ms Sage said more data was needed to understand what was going to New Zealand's landfills and consumers needed to be more cognisant of their buying habits.

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Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

"We need to change our throw-away culture and we need to do more re-use and recovery and we need to think about what we're buying in terms of reducing what we're actually using.

"As consumers, it's incumbent on all of us to think about what we're buying."

Ms Knight said the review should focus on creating more onshore processing facilities, and limiting the use of combined plastics which are difficult to process or recycle.

New Zealand was very vulnerable to any changes in the markets overseas, she said, including China's recent ban on waste imports.

Ms Sage said the ban posed a challenge for New Zealand and would mean more of New Zealand's recyclable waste was likely to end up in places like Thailand.

She said it was better to reduce and reuse products before recycling them, and the review into the Waste Minimisation Act would consider more product stewardship and container deposit schemes.

It would also look at extending current landfill levies.

Landfill, Timaru

Photo: Samuel Mann / CC BY 2.0

Among the waste New Zealand currently sends off-shore for processing is soft-plastics, which has skyrocketed in the past year.

Soft Plastics Recycling scheme manager Lyn Mayes said the amount of soft recycling in 2017 had risen to more than 350 tonnes, up from just over 100 tonnes in 2016.

"We are now collecting around 9 to 10 tonnes every week. That's around 2.25 million single bags.

"We are expecting 2018 to continue that trend increase."

Ms Mayes said the soft plastic was currently being processed at a plant in Melbourne but she was hopeful some may be able to be processed in New Zealand eventually.

Ms Sage said the review was likely to take several months to complete.

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