Government plans to transform recycling


The Government is taking steps to improve recycling at home, and on the go, and is inviting New Zealanders to have their say.

Environment Minister David Parker says “It’s estimated that nationally only 28 percent of materials are recycled and the rest goes to landfill. By contrast, Germany, Austria and Wales have the highest recycling rates in the world, with over 50 per cent of all waste being recycled”.

There are three connected proposals covered by the consultation.

The first, looks at improvements to the household kerbside recycling system, including access to food scrap collections.

The second proposal is for a container return scheme for beverages, to incentivise people to return empty drink containers in exchange for a small refundable deposit. (A deposit of 20 cents is proposed).

Consistent with most overseas schemes, containers of fresh dairy milk would be exempt from the scheme. Unlike most drink containers, those for fresh milk already achieve very high recovery rates through kerbside recycling collections. 

The third part of the consultation focuses on diverting business food waste from landfills to reduce their carbon footprint. The food scraps can then be used to improve our soil or feed animals.

Public feedback will help shape the final reform proposals.

Consultation will run until Sunday, 8 May. The consultation document and online submission forms are available on the Ministry for the Environment’s website: Transforming Recycling consultation document.

Part 1: Proposed improvements to household kerbside recycling 

  • Six proposals are being considered.  
  • Actions that improve the performance of kerbside recycling could include: 
    • requiring councils to divert a certain amount of kerbside material from landfills 
    • setting a standard list of materials all household kerbside recycling services will collect 
    • requiring household kerbside organic waste collections (food scraps and possibly garden waste).  
  • Organic waste collections would likely divert 125,000–180,000 additional tonnes of food scraps from landfills per annum, contributing to emissions (methane) reductions and waste-diversion targets.  

Part 2: Proposed design of a container return scheme 

  • A container return scheme encourages people to return beverage containers for recycling or refilling in exchange for a refundable deposit.
  • When someone buys a drink, they pay a small deposit as part of the normal price of the drink. When the empty container is returned to a collection point, that deposit is refunded to them  
  • Based on the proposed design, we expect the NZ CRS will increase recycling rates to 85–90 per cent, which will significantly reduce litter. This means that the scheme would receive over two billion beverage containers every year for recycling.
  • The proposed exemption for fresh milk applies only to white dairy milk that requires refrigeration, including cream. The exemption would not include beverages that are shelf-stable (long-life) or partially dairy/milk-based, such as (but not limited to) drinkable fermented dairy drinks like kefir, flavoured milk, smoothies, drinkable yoghurt and plant-based milk alternatives (eg, oat, almond, coconut, soy, etc.).

Part 3: Proposed separation of business food waste 

  • The Climate Change Commission recommends reducing greenhouse gas emissions from waste by at least 40 per cent below 2017 levels by 2035. These proposals will help us reach proposed waste emissions targets.
  • The Government is proposing to make the separation of food waste from general waste mandatory for all businesses.
  • The requirement to separate food scraps could be phased.