What is happening

We are developing new waste legislation to replace the current Waste Minimisation Act 2008 and the Litter Act 1979.

The new legislation will support delivery of many significant initiatives including the waste strategy and waste actions of the Emissions reduction plan 

Why the changes

Aotearoa New Zealand is one of the highest generators of waste per person in the world and was the third highest generator of municipal waste in 2018. It is the second worst recycling nation in the OECD. 

We have a single-use throw-away culture. Long-term trends suggest waste disposal will continue to increase. 

Our current waste system causes:

  • environmental harm
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • economic losses. 

It is not sustainable without increasing harm to the environment. The current legislation, the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 and the Litter Act 1979, is dated and has limited tools to address these environmental issues. 

New legislation will allow us to:

  • fix the gaps in our old legislation
  • give effect to our new waste strategy
  • enable Aotearoa to catch up with the rest of the world. 

Public consultation

Public consultation to seek feedback and ideas on the content for the new waste strategy and legislation was held in late 2021. It produced nearly 2500 submissions from individuals, the waste sector, businesses, and local government.

There was a high level of support for transforming the way we manage waste and the move towards a circular economy. A greater focus on reducing waste generation was broadly supported and for waste to be designed-out of the system. The new legislation will give us the tools to enable this.

See the consultation document: Taking responsibility for our waste consultation

See the summary of submissions

What the new legislation will do

The new legislation will do the following. 

Improve consistency in waste management

Historically, waste has largely been left to individual local authorities and the private sector to manage. Under the WMA and Local Government Act 2002, territorial authorities are largely free to decide what waste-related activities they carry out and how they fund them.

The result over time has been a wide variation in the type and extent of council activity across the country. This coupled with the variation in size and capability across local government has contributed to inconsistent outcomes.

The new legislation will provide clear roles and responsibilities for central and local government. This will mean a more consistent waste service for all New Zealanders as well as greater capacity to work together to achieve our waste reduction goals.

Strengthen the waste levy

The legislation will improve the effectiveness of the waste levy.

It will broaden the scope of what the waste disposal levy funds can be spent on. It will also mean the local government portion of the waste levy is distributed more fairly between territorial authorities. This will be through a flat-rate allocation alongside the existing population-based calculation.

The waste disposal levy will also be broadened to be able to apply to all forms of final disposal including waste-to-energy facilities. Cabinet has requested further advice on investment of the levy.

Increase regulatory powers to control products and materials

The legislation will strengthen some existing powers and add new product regulation powers.

These include:

  • product bans
  • landfill bans
  • mandatory recycling
  • environmental performance standards
  • provision of information on environmental performance
  • extended producer responsibility.

Improve how the waste industry operates

The legislation will introduce new tools to regulate how the waste management and resource recovery sector operates. Once the new legislation is in place, regulations would need to be developed to use these new tools.

National licencing scheme

This will be enabled to create a national register of operators and facilities.

It will also have the ability to set:

  • entry requirements
  • operating standards
  • oversight
  • sanctions.

Licensing will also support national data collection and improved regulatory management and enforcement.

Electronic tracking system

This will be enabled to make the movement of specified wastes (eg, hazardous waste) transparent. It will promote accountability and strengthen enforcement.

National waste standards

This will be enabled to set technical requirements for waste and resource recovery activities to be set at a national level that can be enforced.

This would include powers to ensure waste could not be exported or imported unless destined for disposal or recycling in an environmentally sound manner.

Change how we all treat waste

This legislation will spell out clearly who is responsible for waste at each part of its life.

This will encourage individual and collective responsibility for how we manage and dispose of waste.

Change how we monitor and enforce the Act

The new Act will have improved provisions for record-keeping and reporting obligations.

This will improve availability of waste and resource recovery data.

There will be a modern and effective compliance regime that will include a range of civil and criminal enforcement tools.

Next steps

Cabinet has made many decisions on the content of the new legislation and is awaiting further advice on some topics. The Parliamentary Counsel Office will draft the legislation based on decisions Cabinet has already made and its upcoming decisions.

We are expecting the draft Bill to be introduced into the house in late 2023 or early 2024. Following this there will be an opportunity for feedback during the select committee process. We aim to have the legislation enacted in 2025.

The new Act will include regulation-making powers. Use of these powers would be subject to a standard regulation-making process (including public consultation).