Reluctance to charge more people dumping fees blamed for rise in landfill waste
If New Zealand's waste disposal levy was given some extra grunt it could divert three million tonnes of waste from landfill each year and create 9000 jobs, according to a report.
But the Government has chosen to leave the levy unchanged following a recent review – maintaining a stance it has held since the charge for dumping waste was introduced in 2008.
Since 2014, waste has increased by 16 per cent nationally and the amount diverted from landfill to recycling schemes and other uses has dropped by 6 per cent.
The waste disposal levy was intended to discourage dumping by imposing a $10 charge on every tonne disposed of in landfills – a lower charge than those imposed by almost every other country that has a levy.
Australia's waste levies range between $55 to $133 per tonne, while the United Kingdom charges up to $153 per tonne.
Only 45 class-one landfills, which handle household waste, currently charge for dumping in this country. Meanwhile, 381 class two, three and four landfills, which receive primarily industrial and commercial waste, do not.
The average Kiwi currently produces 734 kilograms of household waste per year – about the weight of a cow.
A report, funded by the Waste Levy Action Group that includes local authorities and interest parties, said increasing the levy here to $140 could deliver up to $500m in economic benefits by directing extra funds towards recycling and waste diversion schemes.
The report also recommended a gradual levy rollout to all landfills to allow industry to adapt.
The Government's reluctance to broaden the waste disposal levy flies in the face of its own recommendations, which were made in a similar review in 2014. That report stated it should investigate extending the levy to cover more landfills.
Only two of the 11 recommendations from the 2014 review have been completed. The 2017 review puts this lack of progress down to the ministry not having enough staff and resources to commit towards the work.
Green Party waste spokeswoman Denise Roche said extending the levy could save ratepayers money, if additional payments from commercial and industrial dumpers were funnelled into creating more recycling and diversion schemes.
"There is not real commitment from this Government that they want to do anything serious about waste."
Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson said there was no intention to increase the levy, despite New Zealand's being among the lowest of any country that has one.
"A flat levy just on tonnage is a relatively blunt instrument, so I would like to look at a more nuanced, finessed approach, involving looking at potentially different pricing mechanisms for different types of waste."
He did not know whether staffing at the ministry had increased, but said the creation of a new ministerial delegation indicated a new focus.
The 2017 review also noted a shift in the number and size of different classes of landfills, which suggested operators may be playing the system and dumping in non-levied landfills to avoid charges.
"Over time, this practice can undermine the intent of the levy," the report said.