Waste strategy needs to learn from nature

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

Anything less than a transformational national waste strategy and waste legislation will not be enough, the Green Party said today.

“We have a responsibility to leave the living world in a better state than we found it,” says Eugenie Sage, Green Party spokesperson for waste.

“A healthy, thriving and low carbon economy needs to be regenerative by design, reduce what we take from nature, recover and re-use those materials and help restore the natural world on which our wellbeing depends.

“For decades we have extracted resources, made something with them, and then thrown the resulting product away. To tackle the climate crisis, protect our forests and oceans, and create healthy communities we need to think about waste completely differently from the old fashioned approach that successive governments have encouraged.

“We need to go from an economy that is inefficient and degenerative by design to one that is regenerative by design. We need to think about waste as something to avoid, not something to send to the landfill. Whether it’s food scraps from home, or construction waste from building new homes, most of what we use should be able to be repaired or the component materials recovered and transformed back into the same or better products.

“Take, for example, the cup of coffee that many of us made when we woke up this morning. How many of us threw away the coffee grounds after the brew without even thinking about it? That resource can be used as feed for the garden, or food for cattle.

“That’s just one small example, but if we could scale up that type of thinking – of seeing everything we use as part of a natural process – then we can transform our economy, cut emissions, and create jobs.

“Every community, every business, and every whānau has a role to play in the transition to a low emissions, circular economy, and the final national waste strategy needs to create the conditions for it to happen. It also needs to recognise the relationship of mana whenua as kaitiaki of their taonga and rohe and ensure culturally appropriate waste management. The consultation document released today takes us some of the way there, but not quickly enough.

“Diverting food waste and organic materials from landfill by 2030 will need much greater investment in kerbside collection of food scraps and organic waste. The Government and councils will also need to provide more support for composting at household, community and city scale.

“And we need more ways of helping businesses to design waste out of their products and processes, and take responsibility for their end of life products. There are some good proposals in the document on this. For example a potential container return scheme for beverage containers and more regulated product stewardship schemes. We can speed up progress and expand the scale of our ambition

“As part of the previous Government, the Green Party did more to address waste than any other previous government. We banned single use plastic bags, phased out micro-beads in cosmetics, increased and expanded the waste levy on landfills, started designing a container return scheme for beverage containers and regulated product stewardship schemes for challenging products such as e-waste and tyres.

“We will continue to work with the Government through the Labour-Greens Cooperation Agreement to build on this progress and maximise the opportunities to avoid and reduce waste and transition to a circular economy.”

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