New Govt proposal to increase levy rate could trigger more illegal dumping

By Jessica Tyson

The Government’s proposal announced today to increase the levy rate for landfills that take household waste has been described as a mistake which would encourage more illegal dumping, says environmentalist Kiri Danielle.

The proposal is to increase the levy rate for landfills that take household waste from the current $10 per tonne - set in 2009 - to $50 or $60 per tonne by mid-2023.

“Most people who dump cannot afford the dump as it is or choose to spend their money elsewhere. I have spoken to real estate agents and council workers who have also noted dumping from rental transitions,” says Danielle.

As part of the Government’s plan to tackle New Zealand's mounting waste challenges, increasing the levy rate is one of many proposals made to increase funding support for councils, community organisations and businesses for projects to recover and recycle more materials and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

“If the Government do increase [the levy rate] I would hope at the very least they spend that revenue on better recycling, expending product Stewardship and investing in renewable resources, sustainable transportation," says Danielle.

Investment in solutions

The Government has indeed made another proposal to invest the additional landfill revenue in solutions that support waste reduction, such as building New Zealand-based recycling and reprocessing infrastructure to recover more materials.

Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage says the revenue from the landfill levy gets recycled back into waste minimisation with half going to local councils so they can fund the resource recovery and other infrastructure their communities want. The other half goes to the Waste Minimisation Fund which provides grants to support businesses and community organisations reduce waste.

"This is a great way to make sure we can reduce waste and deal with rubbish we create here in New Zealand, creating jobs and innovation, and not send New Zealand's waste offshore for other countries and communities to deal with,” says Sage. 

While Australia recovers about 55 per cent of its waste, New Zealand currently recovers 35 per cent.

"We know it's currently cheaper and easier to send waste to the dump than recycle or recover materials from it. If we flip that around we create jobs in reprocessing, valuable materials are recovered and our economy becomes more efficient," says Sage.

Danielle says, "The system needs an overhaul and an upgrade. These things do take time and money however, so I could see a price increase as part of a bigger picture as part of a sensible plan towards greater sustainability.”

Better education

Danielle says the public needs to be better educated about the cost of littering to the environment.

“Papatuanuku needs more respect than that. Dumping typically is out of town, but I have seen an increase of urban dumping and that will increase until better social and cultural awareness, love for Papatuanuku increases, alongside a system modern and effective system for waste renewal, she says.

“Finding the balance is key, along with helping people love and appreciate Papatuanuku and all she provides.”  

Public to have their say

The Government is seeking public feedback on its proposals to expand the national landfill levy scheme set out in a consultation document entitled Reducing Waste: a more effective landfill levy.

  1. Encourage more reuse and recycling by progressively increasing the levy rate for landfills that take household waste from the current $10 per tonne - set in 2009 - to $50 or $60 per tonne by mid-2023.
  2. Expanding the landfill levy to cover all landfill types including industrial and construction and demolition fills, but not cleanfills or farm dumps, at a proposed rate of $10 or $20 per tonne depending on the type of landfill.
  3. Improve the way waste is managed across the country by collecting better data about the waste we are creating, and how we are disposing of it.
  4. Invest the additional landfill revenue in solutions that support waste reduction, such as building New Zealand-based recycling and reprocessing infrastructure to recover more materials. This will enable investment in projects like Green Gorilla's project which takes valuable building and demolition waste materials and re-purposes them so they don't get thrown away, or Flight Plastics who make recycled packaging from plastic bottles, or support community recycling centres in towns across Aotearoa.

"I look forward to hearing the feedback on these proposals to look after the environment and support innovation by reducing waste, reusing and recovering more materials in New Zealand," says Sage.