New Zealand’s Government plans to shake up national waste recycling

A total shake-up of the waste system is expected to enable New Zealand to cut down 13 million tons of trash annually.  

Environment specialists state that the current waste system New Zealanders use is inadequate, and the country is in high need of a plan like the Transforming Recycling initiative to put the basis of a national system that encourages the citizens to recycle universal kerbside food waste and plastic bottles more efficiently. At the moment of writing, statistics show that New Zealand generates over 17 million tonnes of waste annually. Less than 30% of the total waste is recycled; the rest is in landfills. On the other hand, European countries like Austria, Germany, and Wales have high recycling rates, with over 50% of their waste being recycled or reused.

New Zealand's Government plans to shake up national waste recycling

What does the Transforming Recycling plan bring to the table?

The Transforming Recycling plan aims to provide New Zealanders with a complex service everyone can access and use according to their needs. Recycling works well in some areas like Auckland, where organizations, for example, collaborate with recycling specialists to boost their efforts. Miltek, a baler company in Auckland, supports business initiatives to recycle more effectively by providing innovative resources. Unfortunately, areas like Wellington are less successful at recycling than Auckland, and people struggle to recycle reusable materials. They must work to take everything to its designed recycling point. This situation shows that New Zealand needs to standardize the recycling process so people in all regions can follow the same steps and access the same resources.

The new project implies that kerbside food scrap will be collected from all homes and businesses by 2030 to reduce the amount of trash in landfills. Unfortunately, food scraps currently makeup over a third of the average household’s rubbish weekly and generate high greenhouse gas emissions when they end up in a landfill. Decomposed food in landfill releases methane, and it’s impossible to catch all the gas, no matter what solutions or tools are used. However, if the authorities offer the residents access to kerbside food scrap collections, they can reduce methane emissions and compost the trash to return it to the soil as nutrients.

The recycling program also aims to recycle more bottles. According to statistics, over two billion bottles of drinks are sold in New Zealand annually, but less than 50% of the containers are recycled. Therefore, over a billion bottles are thrown into the trash and sent to landfills. After starting the bottle deposit system, the authorities offer people incentives when dropping odd bottles at the designated recycling sites. The machines will function similarly to ATMs, and New Zealanders will receive 20 cents for each bottle they bring.

Supermarkets and dairies have been proposed as collection points because they’re easily accessible. The bottle deposit system aims to reduce the number of beverage containers in landfills by 50%, bringing New Zealand to the same standards as other overseas countries. The authorities think the project will trigger a significant drop in the waste produced. Still, they must act cautiously because broken glass can become dangerous if not carefully handled.

Queensland adopted a similar system and concluded it costs 92 cents per household to put it in place effectively. The new recycling program could double the number of recycled beverage containers.

What’s more to know about the ban on single-use plastics?

New Zealand is about to ban all single-use plastics like fruit labels, bags, plates, drinking straws, and cotton buds. The project aims to phase out in three stages between 2022 and 2025. The Government will also launch a fund to develop alternatives to plastic, as it’s one of the most widely used materials. The timing of the program aims to create a balance between the need for organizations to find alternatives and the public’s call for action. The authorities encourage individuals and companies to opt for reusable options because several alternatives are available (paper-based containers and recyclable plastic).

The numbers show that New Zealand is among the highest generators of plastic waste worldwide, with its residents throwing away over 159 grams of plastic daily. Individuals and companies have widely supported the plastic ban adopted in 2019 because New Zealanders are ready to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle. The initiative focuses on hard-to-recycle waste made from polystyrene and PVC and some degradable plastic products.

The authorities believe that by banning single-use plastics like bowls, plates, produce bags, cotton buds, straws, fruit labels, cutlery, and other similar ones, they can reduce the amount of waste that arrives at landfills and improve the national recycling system. The program also encourages New Zealanders to be more environmentally responsible and turn to reusable and eco-friendly alternatives.

The Government collaborated with industry groups to develop a plan for plastic products meant to protect large items or transport cold goods. The $50 million plastics innovations fund supports projects that reimagine how to create, use, and recycle plastics. The program is predicted to attract businesses and research institutes, which will only accelerate the process.

Even if the program boosts advancement in the sector, the authorities agree that more progress must be made because waste is one of the most significant challenges in the world. The amount of plastic pollution in the oceans is unacceptable. Banning single-use plastic items is a step forward for humanity and the planet because it helps reduce global pollution and waste.

It’s clear to specialists that when plastic degrades naturally, it spreads through air, land, and water, and it’s impossible to treat or remove it, especially once it reaches nano sizes. Now that scientists have highlighted the effects of plastic waste on people and sea life, it’s essential to find reliable solutions to prevent the plastic waste problem.

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