1.2.1 The Waste Minimisation Act 2008
The Waste Minimisation Act 2008 (WMA) is the key piece of legislation regulating waste management in New Zealand. The sections of the WMA most relevant to this WMMP are:
Section 3: Purpose of the Act
The purpose of the WMA is: to encourage waste minimisation and a decrease in waste disposal to:
- protect the environment from harm; and
- provide environmental, social, economic and cultural benefits.
Section 8: Product stewardship
The purpose of this part is to encourage (and, in certain circumstances, require) the people and organisations involved in the life of a product to share responsibility for:
- ensuring there is effective reduction, reuse, recycling or recovery of the product; and
- managing any environmental harm arising from the product when it becomes waste.
Section 25: Waste disposal levy
The purpose of this part is to enable a levy to be imposed on waste disposed of to:
- raise revenue for promoting and achieving waste minimisation; and
- increase the cost of waste disposal to recognise that disposal imposes costs on the environment, society and the economy.
Section 42: Responsibilities of territorial authorities
A territorial authority must promote effective and efficient waste management and minimisation within its district.
Section 46: Funding of plans
- A territorial authority is not limited to applying strict cost recovery or user pays principles for any particular service, facility, or activity provided by the territorial authority in accordance with its waste management and minimisation plan.
- Without limiting subsection (1), a territorial authority may charge fees for a particular serviceor facility provided by the territorial authority that is higher or lower than required to recover the costs of the service or facility, or provide a service or facility free of charge if:
- it is satisfied that the charge or lack of charge will provide an incentive or disincentive that will promote the objectives of its waste management and minimisation plan; and
- the plan provides for charges to be set in this manner.
This plan considers waste and diverted materials in keeping with the waste hierarchy, as required by the WMA. The waste hierarchy states that waste
actions are to be addressed in priority order so as to extract maximum benefit from resources and to produce the least possible residual waste.
Other sections of the WMA that are relevant to this WMMP are:
Waste management and minimisation plans
Requirements when preparing, amending, or revoking plans
Funding of plans
Governor-General may give directions to territorial authority
Minister may set performance standards for territorial authorities
Review of waste management and minimisation plan
Requirements for waste assessment
Waste management and minimisation services, facilities, and activities
Proceeds from activities and services must be used in implementing waste management and minimisation plan
Waste must be collected promptly, efficiently, and regularly
Health Protection Officer may serve notice on territorial authority for causing nuisance
The purpose of the WMA is to “encourage waste minimisation and a decrease in waste disposal in order to protect the environment from harm, and provide environmental, social, economic and cultural benefits”. It also requires councils to “promote effective and efficient waste management and minimisation within their districts” even if, as in Auckland, over 80 per cent of waste and diverted materials are collected, recovered and disposed of by private operators. These legislative requirements are the main reason for council’s desire to explore, with industry and government, ways to substantially reduce waste to landfill.
The waste disposal levy introduced by the WMA is currently set at $10 per tonne of waste disposed to landfill (imposed at disposal facilities)17. This is very low by international standards and is likely to increase over time. The intention of the levy is to put the cost of waste disposal (including economic, environmental, social and cultural impacts of landfilling) onto the disposer, creating an economic incentive to divert and recycle.
The waste levy also creates a funding pool for waste minimisation initiatives. Half of the money collected is put into a contestable Waste Minimisation Fund and the other half is split among local authorities on a population basis. Local authorities must use levy funds for waste minimisation in keeping with their WMMPs. Funds can be withheld if the Minister for the Environment believes the territorial authority has not adopted a plan, reviewed it as required, has not spent funds appropriately, or has not met performance standards. Auckland Council currently receives approximately $4.2 million annually from waste levy funds.
1.2.2 New Zealand Waste Strategy
In adopting a WMMP, the council is required by the WMA to have regard to the New Zealand Waste Strategy.
The first New Zealand Waste Strategy, Towards Zero Waste and a sustainable New Zealand, released in 2002 sets out the government’s long-term priorities
for waste management and minimisation.
It includes specific targets for reducing various types of waste including organic, special, construction, demolition and hazardous waste. For example, one of the targets for organic waste was to divert at least 95 per cent of garden waste from landfill by December 2010. This, and other targets, were not achieved and specific targets have since been dropped from the revised 2010 strategy. However the council considers that they remain valid goals to aim for within an updated timeframe, as without targets the focus is diluted.
The revised 2010 Waste Strategy, ‘Reducing harm, improving efficiency’, provides direction to local government, businesses (including the waste industry), and communities on ways to:
- reduce the harmful effects of waste
- improve the efficiency of resource use18.
The WMMP defines ‘waste’ as ‘waste to landfill’. ‘Diverted materials’ means discarded materials not sent to landfill – such as those collected for recycling and composting. The plan’s primary focus is solid waste. However, it also takes into account the potential harm of all wastes: solids, liquids and gases (but not the collection or treatment of human bio-solid waste – although treatment of the residual sludge for reuse might be explored in future in collaboration with Watercare Services Ltd).
The plan covers all aspects of waste management from collection to treatment and disposal. In the waste hierarchy landfilling is the least desirable outcome – however, it is not technically or economically feasible to divert all materials from landfill at this time.
While Auckland Council accepts that landfilling will remain the main waste disposal option for some time, its WMMP establishes Zero Waste as a long-term aspirational goal and the key driver of council services.
Council’s decisions on the plan must also accord with the following Acts of Parliament:
Local Government Act (LGA) 2002
The Health Act 1956
Resource Management Act (RMA) 1991
Emissions Trading Amendment Act 2008
The Hazardous Substances and New
Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO)
Climate Change (Emissions Trading)
Amendment Act 2008
(Auckland Transitional Provisions) Act 2010
Waste collection, treatment, and disposal has been highlighted as a source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and is believed to be responsible for 6 per cent of Auckland’s overall emissions (based on 2009 levels19). It is estimated that in 2009 GHG emissions from waste totalled 618 ktCO2e (kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent). Under a ‘business as usual’ scenario, emissions are projected to increase a further 35.8 per cent by 2031. Council’s goal is a 40 per cent reduction in human generated GHG emissions20 by 2031 (based on 1990 levels). The WMMP must contribute to the target by creating and identifying waste minimisation, collection and treatment services and single-stream (e.g. waste wood) waste-to-energy opportunities. The council is currently developing a GHG emission reduction strategy for discussion.