It’s time landfill levies are used to tackle construction and demolition waste

31 January 2020

The Ministry for the Environment is reviewing Aotearoa’s landfill levies with plans to extend them to Construction and Demolition landfills. 

C&D waste makes up about half of what is going to our landfills. We know much of it can be redirected for reuse and recycling and yet our current landfill levy structure doesn’t help incentivise that.

Although landfill operators already charge gate fees for the dumping of C&D waste, there is no requirement for them to pay a levy to the government. Waste levies disincentivise wasteful practices by increasing the cost of dumping while helping to fund vital infrastructure for resource recovery and recycling. If these levies go ahead, they could have a big effect on the way we manage C&D waste in Aotearoa.

The NZGBC supports the proposals put forward by the Ministry, however, we think they should go further. 

Read our full submission here.

There are a number of key points that need addressing:

  • The levy should be expanded to include C&D landfills and then increased further than what is being proposed. MfE should be more ambitious if they are serious about tackling C&D waste.
  • In future, MfE should consider applying levies to types of waste, rather than types of landfill. The current proposal poses a risk of waste leaking from landfills with high levies to those with lower levies.
  • We don’t agree with the justification for having a lower levy for class 2 landfills (C&D) than class 1 landfills (municipal waste). Yes, C&D waste poses less direct environmental risk to landfill sites, however it has very high indirect environmental risks. C&D waste has very high embodied carbon and reducing this is extremely important if we want to stay on track to meet our carbon reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement.
  • We support option A, increasing the levy on class 1 landfills, and then expanding the levy to other landfill types. This will give the industry time to adapt before the levy costs go up.
  • The strategy for the levy investment plan should allocate funds based on the following priorities:
    • Projects that aim to prevent the production of waste
    • Projects that reduce waste and promote re-use of materials
    • Projects that focus on recycling and disposal
  • We agree with the proposals to improve data collection however this should be extended to include data collection on waste composition as well as recycling and recovery rates.

Ensuring our materials aren’t a burden on our environment is incredibly important. Using levies as a lever to disincentivise dumping it in landfills is part of the solution towards a more circular economy and one where our sector thinks more proactively about the waste it creates. We’re excited by the impact these plans could have and we’ll be following the Ministry’s progress closely.