Reduce Waste, Create Jobs & Engage Your Community

Aotearoa New Zealand is blessed with natural riches, from windswept beaches to gravity-defying kererū. Our responsibility is to live resourcefully, so that future generations enjoy the same wellbeing as us.

The world is waking up to the harm that plastic bags and other single use plastics have done to our oceans. Plastic pollution is just the most obvious sign of the damage caused by throw-away thinking and our “make-use-dispose” economic model. By shifting to a circular economy, New Zealand can improve intergenerational wellbeing and protect and regenerate our natural capital. 

The Zero Waste Network envisages a zero waste world where nothing is wasted and all resources are valued and reclaimed. We have been working in communities and as a unifying voice for zero waste policies and behaviour change for over 20 years.

The real power of the Zero Waste Network is connection. Social connection and inclusion are at the heart of resourceful communities. More than 10,000 volunteers connect with our community enterprises; sewing reusable bags, repairing stuff, upcycling and planting. Hundreds of thousands shop at our reuse stores, giving discarded stuff a second chance.

Zero Waste Network members share knowledge, skills, programmes and resources, and help each other through tough times. Fledgling community enterprises can stand on the shoulders of giants; making their communities more resourceful and cohesive.

To reduce waste to landfill:

  • Raise the waste levy
  • Introduce container deposit-refunds
  • Use mandatory product stewardship

Real Recycling

The current crisis in our recycling system is resulting in lost productivity; due to high levels of contamination (especially from commingled systems), markets closing down and loss of confidence. We need real recycling systems designed to recover the high quality feedstocks essential to a circular economy. Overseas evidence is that container deposit-refund schemes lead to better quality recycling and much higher recycling rates for drink containers. To shift to real recycling, NZ urgently needs to:

  • introduce a container deposit-refund scheme
  • have more onshore re-processing
  • set minimum quality standards for recycling
  • make procurement choices based on outcomes, not cheapest cost

Mandatory Product Stewardship

Under mandatory product stewardship, all companies minimise the harm created by their products. By taking responsibility for the whole life-cycle of their products, companies start designing for sustainability and recycling. Product stewardship creates better feedback loops and adequate funding for real recycling systems.

New Zealand is lagging behind. We rely on voluntary product stewardship schemes, which don’t deal with free riders and risk being seen as greenwash. The Waste Minimisation Act contains provisions for mandatory product stewardship of harmful products like tyres, plastic packaging and electronic waste. All that’s needed is the will to act.

Resourceful Communities 

The Zero Waste Network brings people together to work for a shared goal of zero waste. People connect, collaborate and find common ground as they tackle waste and plastic pollution. Innovative resource recovery programmes started by our members include Para Kore marae recycling, Paper4Trees school recycling and Kai Rescue.

All kinds of people, including some of the most vulnerable, find meaningful work or volunteer with our community enterprises. From every $1 made, 80c is put back into local economies, mostly through wages. Even more could be done to strengthen communities if Government and councils adopted social procurement policies.