Reducing waste helps with the transition to a low-emissions circular economy

A low-emissions ciricular economy involves:

  • keeping resources in use for as long as possible
  • extracting the maximum value from them while in use
  • then recovering and regenerating them. 
Describes the processes of the linear economy and the circular economy. Infographic.
A linear economy has a take, make, dispose approach with energy from finite sources. A circular economy has a make, use, return cycle with energy from renewable sources.
Describes the processes of the linear economy and the circular economy. Infographic.
A linear economy has a take, make, dispose approach with energy from finite sources. A circular economy has a make, use, return cycle with energy from renewable sources.

Waste work programme

To reduce the amount of waste Aotearoa New Zealand produces, we are:

  • setting the direction for waste reduction
  • increasing investment in waste reduction initiatives and infrastructure
  • making system-level change 
  • addressing problems with individual products and materials 
  • strengthening compliance, monitoring and enforcement.

Setting the direction for waste reduction

Waste strategy

We recently launched our new waste strategy to set Aotearoa New Zealand's direction on waste for the next three decades

Find out more about the strategy

Building the foundations for a transformed waste system

The new strategy is part of Objective 1: Building the foundations for a transformed waste system in our Waste reduction work programme.

We have also released Aotearoa New Zealand's first Emissions Reduction Plan. 

The plan includes: 

  • actions for reducing emissions from the waste sector (with a focus on organic waste) 
  • policies to reduce emissions from hydrofluorocarbons. 

Find out more about the Emissions reduction plan 

Increasing investment in waste reduction initiatives and infrastructure

What we are focused on

  • Bringing about transformational change
  • Bringing our resource recovery systems up to global standards
  • Reducing emissions from waste.

Priority areas for investment

  • Research and development 

  • Innovation

  • Community projects

  • Infrastructure

  • Public information

  • Te ao Māori initiatives

  • Remediating contaminated sites.

Areas we are currently investing in 

Reuse, recovery and recycling of materials

We are supporting projects that increase the reuse, recovery and recycling of materials through Te Pūtea Whakamauru Para - the Waste Minimisation Fund.

The fund invests in a wide-range of projects from multi-million-dollar infrastructure investments to smaller hapū/community-centred projects.

See more on the Waste Minimisation Fund

Resource recovery infrastructure

Over the next two years, we are funding a range of resource recovery infrastructure projects through the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

See more on the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund

Ways to reduce plastic waste 

We are investing $50 million over four years in projects that find ways to use less plastic and make what we do use reusable or recyclable through the Plastics Innovation Fund. The fund opened for expressions of interest for its second funding round on 1 November 2022. The focus of this funding round is reducing soft plastic waste.

See more on the Plastics Innovation Fund

National food waste reduction programmes

We are looking to invest up to $8.3 million in behaviour change programmes that reduce food waste.

The programmes will aim to reduce food waste in three settings: households; Māori-led settings (such as marae, kōhango reo, kura kaupapa, papakāinga); and businesses.

We sought expressions of interest in funding from organisations from 14 November to 4 December 2022.

Find out more about the funding and types of programmes we want to invest in

Remediation of contaminated sites

We fund regional councils and unitary authorities to remediate contaminated sites on behalf of landowners. Landowners seek financial assistance from them. 

See more on the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund

Making system-level change

Increasing and expanding the waste disposal levy

The waste disposal levy provides revenue for the promotion and achievement of waste minimisation.

In July 2021 we began phasing in increases to the waste disposal levy and expanding its scope.

Money raised from the levy increases will provide additional revenue for:

  • investment in weighbridges
  • expanding data collection and management systems
  • strengthening compliance and monitoring activity
  • mitigating unintended consequences of the waste disposal levy increases (eg, inappropriate and illegal waste disposal). 

See more on the waste disposal levy increase

Improving recycling and food scraps collections

In March 2023 the Government announced changes to household recycling and food scaps collections to make it easier for people to recycle and stop food scraps going to landfill.

Find out about changes to household collections from 1 February 2024

Find out about future proposed changes

The changes were consulted on in 2022 alongside proposals for:

  • a container return scheme for Aotearoa
  • separation of business food waste.

See consultation document

Around 6400 submissions were received on the consultation, with most submitters in favour of the initiatives.

Business food waste

In 2023 the Government announced it would get businesses ready to separate food scraps from general waste by 2030. This is 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. 

Find out more about reducing food waste

This work is being progressed alongside proposed new waste legislation. See Waste strategy and legislation

Improving the availability, quality and consistency of waste data

Changes have been made to the information requirements and calculation and payment of waste disposal levy regulations to improve the availability, quality and consistency of waste data.

The changes to the regulations will require:

  • operators of landfills and transfer stations to report the ‘activity source’ of waste that enters their site
  • territorial authorities to report on their spending of levy money and waste minimisation services and facilities.

See the briefing on the policy proposals 

Cabinet paper: Additional proposals to improve the availability of waste data

Improved waste data will support a range of initiatives in the Government’s waste work programme including:

The public was consulted on the proposed changes as part of the 2021 Taking responsibility for our waste consultation.  Further engagement with the waste sector occurred in 2021.

The new Waste Data Information Reporting Regulations come into force on 1 July 2024. They are available to view on the New Zealand Legislation website:

Waste Minimisation (Information Requirements) Amendment Regulations 2023

Waste Minimisation (Calculation and Payment of Waste Disposal Levy) Amendment Regulations 2023

Further information

If you have further questions on additional waste data information regulations, get in touch at WRED@mfe.govt.nz

Addressing problems with individual products and materials

Developing end-of-life solutions for priority products

In July 2020, the Government declared six products as priorities for regulated product stewardship schemes. This is where regulations are used to increase incentives for the circular use of a resource.

The priority products are:

  • plastic packaging
  • tyres
  • electrical and electronic products (e-waste including large batteries)
  • agrichemicals and their containers
  • refrigerants 
  • farm plastics.

The focus is now on establishing regulated and accredited product stewardship schemes for the priority products.

See more on regulated product stewardship

We recently held a consultation on proposed regulations for product stewardship of tyres and large batteries.

Find out more about the proposed regulations

Phasing out certain single-use plastic items and hard-to-recycle plastic packaging

In June 2021, the Government announced the phase-out of a range of single-use plastic items and hard-to-recycle plastics between late 2022 and mid 2025.

Find out more about the plastic phase-outs

In 2019, the Office of the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor provided recommendations for tackling Aotearoa New Zealand’s plastic waste problem. These were published in the Rethinking plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand report.

In September 2021, the Government published a national plastics action plan to progress actions agreed in its response to the report. The plan included setting up a Plastics Innovation Fund.

See more on the National Plastics Action Plan

See the Plastics Innovation Fund

See the Rethinking plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand report

See the actions agreed in the Government’s response to the report

Reducing environmental harm from outdoor storage of tyres

The National Environmental Standards for Storing Tyres Outdoors enable regional councils to better manage the environmental risks of outdoor tyre storage. The standards came into force on 20 August 2021.

See more on National Environmental Standards for Storing Tyres Outdoor

Reducing organic and food waste

We are working with other agencies on sustainable food systems and food security.

See more on food waste

Reducing construction and demolition waste

We are gathering more data to more accurately track and measure waste from construction and site clearance activities.

We are working with other agencies, businesses, and research institutes on initiatives which will help reduce construction and demolition waste and move towards more circular systems for building materials used.

Controlling hazardous substances

The Government is introducing regulatory amendments to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996. This is to improve the assessment process for hazardous substances.

We also have international commitments for hazardous substances under the Minamata, Stockholm, Rotterdam, and Vienna Conventions.

See more on hazardous substances

See our international commitments

Strengthening compliance, monitoring and enforcement

Strategy for improving compliance, monitoring, and enforcement

We have a direct regulatory role in compliance, monitoring and enforcement of the Waste Minimisation Act 2008.

Our strategy sets out our approach to this and explains how we achieve compliance and interact with regulated communities.

See the stategy

Find out about compliance, monitoring and enforcement under the Waste Minimisation Act

Improving contaminated land management

We are developing new Hazardous Activities and Industries List (HAIL) guidance to help identify, investigate and manage contaminated land.

We are also developing a contaminated land liability regime and a contaminated land strategy for future management of contaminated land.

See more on contaminated land