What the issue is

Aotearoa New Zealand generates more than 17 million tonnes of waste each year. We send almost 13 million tonnes of that to landfill. This means that almost 76% of the material we use is completely wasted.

Our recycling rate is low. We only recycle and compost about one-third of the materials we place out on the kerbside and two-thirds is sent to landfills. This percentage is reversed in high-performing countries where they recycle two-thirds and landfill only one-third.

Large amounts of valuable resources are lost to landfill. This represents lost resources and business opportunities.

Rubbish ending up in landfills is also contributing to our carbon emissions. In 2019, the waste sector contributed around 4 per cent of our total greenhouse gas emissions and around 9 per cent of biogenic methane emissions.

overflowing bins

Te kaupapa whakahoki ipu Container return scheme

Out and about

At home

A container return scheme is a recycling system that incentivises people to return their empty beverage containers for recycling in exchange for a small refundable deposit (20 cents proposed).

The refundable deposit is a cash incentive for people to return their drink containers.

Beverage containers that would be included 

  • All single-use metal beverage containers (eg, aluminium, steel, tinplate and bimetals).
  • All single-use glass beverage containers (all colours of glass).
  • All single-use plastic beverage containers (PET 1, HDPE 2 and PP 5; recyclable bio-based PET 1 and HDPE 2).
  • All single-use liquid paperboard beverage containers (except fresh milk).

Beverage containers that would not be included 

  • Any beverage container made from a material other than metal, plastic, glass or liquid paperboard (such as pouches, bladders, and compostable or biodegradable plastics). 
  • Fresh milk in all packaging types.
  • Beverage containers that are intended for refilling and have an established return/refillables scheme.
  • All cups (including coffee cups).

The image below is a graphic of this list.

Read more on the container return scheme proposal [PDF, 1.4MB]

container return scheme graphic v2
container return scheme graphic v2

Te hangarua paeara ā-kāinga Improvements to kerbside recycling

Should all households have food scraps bins?

Should we be able to recycle the same items across New Zealand?

We’re going to make it simpler and easier for people to recycle right.

Under this proposal a standard set of materials will be collected in household kerbside recycling bins around the country. It will help businesses design packaging that is recyclable anywhere in New Zealand.

Over time, people will also have access to a food scraps bin at the kerbside. This will help us reduce our carbon footprint, the amount of waste going to landfill and associated disposal costs.

Proposed materials for kerbside collection

  • Glass bottles and jars.
  • Paper and cardboard.
  • Plastic bottles and containers 1, 2, and 5.
  • Aluminium and steel tins and cans.

Read more on the kerbside proposal [PDF, 891KB]

Te whakawehe i ngā para kai ā-pakihi Separation of business food waste

This proposal is about diverting business food waste from landfill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make better use of organic material. The food scraps can then be used to improve our soil or feed animals.

We would be phasing in the implementation of this proposal over time as we progress in our journey from planning to action.

Read more on the separation of business food waste proposal [PDF, 865KB]