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Review of New Zealand Waste Disposal Levy maps out positive future

The New Zealand Waste Levy Action Group has published a study written by Eunomia that maps out how by raising and restructuring its waste disposal levy – currently, just NZ$10 (≈ EUR 6.38) per tonne – New Zealand could boost its gross value added (GVA) by NZ$500 million (≈ EUR 318.84 million).

The New Zealand Waste Levy Action Group, a consortium of public and private sector organisations, published the report at a time when New Zealand’s Ministry for the Environment (MfE) has reviewed the levy – currently one of the lowest in the developed world.

It is widely recognised that, at NZ$10 (≈ EUR 6.38) per tonne, New Zealand’s waste levy does not reflect the true cost of disposal, or stimulate market change. In fact, because the levy has not been increased since it was first introduced in 2009, inflation has eroded its value by around 15 percent. The suggestions we have made in this study will stimulate waste prevention, reuse and recycling, and will deliver significant benefits for the economy and the environment, said Tim Elliott, Eunomia Senior Consultant and report author.

Recommendations made in the report entitled “A Wasted Opportunity – Using the waste disposal levy to create economic and environmental advantage for Aotearoa New Zealand are anticipated to move 32 percent more waste to recovery, upping the recycling rate from 28 percent to 60 percent, whilst also contributing additional levy revenue of NZ$200 million (≈ EUR 127.54 million). An estimated 9 000 jobs would also be created.

The study, which was carried out by UK-headed independent environmental consultancy Eunomia via its New Zealand office and published at the end of May 2017, recommends that:

  • the levy rate is increased to NZ$140 (≈ EUR 89.31) per tonne for the ‘active’ waste landfilled;
  • a lower rate of levy of NZ$15 (≈ EUR 9.57) per tonne is introduced for landfilling inert waste;
  • a levy of NZ$40 (≈ EUR 25.51) per tonne is introduced on waste sent for incineration;
  • improvements should be made to monitoring and enforcement systems – the costs of which would be greatly exceeded by the additional levy income, to minimise the illegal disposal of waste

The report maps out an effective transition to the new system using a waste disposal levy escalator process over seven years, echoing the process that saw UK recycling rates increase dramatically in the 2000s. It also outlines an implementation programme with suggested timings and actions.

Eunomia’s international experience shows us that that one of the most effective ways to move material up the waste hierarchy, promoting prevention, reuse and recycling, is to make waste disposal more costly. What the report has shown is that by making some well-designed changes to the levy, we can get much better outcomes for New Zealand. The recommendations are all possible within the current legislation and the cost of implementation can easily be funded through the increased levy income. There are no real reasons for us not to take this forward, said Duncan Wilson, Head of Eunomia’s Auckland office.

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