After 15 years of lobbying successive governments on advanced recycling fees, there’s a chance to fix it now, and fix it for a long time. So speak up, have your say on what you want for your world.
That’s the upbeat reaction from Tauranga’s homegrown Waste Watchers waste minimisation consultancy group to the Government’s new waste initiative.
“This could be the most significant and substantive initiative on waste regulation ever proposed by any government in New Zealand,” says waste watchers director Marty Hoffart.
Associate minister for the environment, Eugenie Sage, is proposing a new way of dealing with environmentally harmful products before they become waste, including plastic packaging and bottles, as part of a wider plan to avoid rubbish ending up in landfills.
Those products include tyres, beverage containers and plastic packaging, e-waste such as electrical and electronic products starting with lithium batteries, refrigerants and other synthetic greenhouse gases, and agrichemicals.
The Government is proposing a product stewardship scheme to ensure those making, selling and using products all take responsibility to recover and recycle materials before they are dumped.
“We’re hoping for an advanced recycling fee on tires, deposits on beverage containers, advance fees on electrical and electronic products or E waste,” says Marty. “Because at the moment we don't pay anything, there’s no eco-fee, there's no environmental fee where we pay for stuff up front for recycling.” And that, he says, is why people kick their knackered old TVs and the like into the pit at the transfer station. “They can do it for five bucks. They certainly don't want to pay a recycling fee of $30.”
Eugenie Sage says our economy, like others, is based on a “take, make, and dispose” model which treats nature and resources as free and disposable. “A regulated product stewardship is a step towards changing that and designing waste out of production.” It also helps put the responsibility for effective material and waste management on product manufacturers, importers, retailers and users rather than on communities, councils, neighbourhoods and nature.
“The public bought into the ban on plastic bags and so has demonstrated its willingness. We can take heart,” says Marty. “However the public can’t do anything more until the Government acts on a product stewardship scheme.
“Everyone’s a lot more tuned into waste, and the environment and recycling. It’s a totally different time now. It’s amazing what a few years make.” Because he says the previous Government was free market. “But the market doesn’t sort social problems, and it doesn’t sort recycling because there’s a cost to it.” This, he says, is a totally different Government with a totally different philosophy about the environment, waste and recycling.
And Marty says Eugenie Sage just needs a mandate from the electorate so she can go to cabinet, go to treasury and every Government department she needs to talk to, to make it happen. “So take five minutes, ten minutes and tell the Government what you would like your world to look like. It doesn’t have to be a long submission – just send in something so she can take this proposal further.”
Consultation on what products should be considered is open and closes October 4. Go to www.mfe.govt.nz/consultation/priorityproducts for more information.