Reduce waste to reduce emissions

“Waste reduction, reuse and resource recovery will become mainstream in New Zealand as we commit to being carbon neutral by 2050” says Sue Coutts of the Zero Waste Network.

“The Climate Commission’s draft report recognises the key role that waste reduction, reuse, resource recovery and diverting organic waste have to play in reducing New Zealand’s emissions profile. By tackling waste you can reduce emissions, it ticks both boxes at the same time.”

“Climate change can seem a bit overwhelming to the average person or small business. Tackling household and business emissions by reducing waste is an easy place to start,” says Sue Coutts. 

“The upstream emissions from extraction, manufacturing, transporting and selling goods account for a significant proportion of New Zealand’s emissions profile. The carbon impact shows up in the emissions profiles of other sectors,” says Sue Coutts

“In 2015 UNEP estimated that improving waste management practises and recovering more materials could reduce emissions by 15 to 20%, and more if we get serious about designing waste out of the system to begin with and keep products in use for longer.”

“The further up the waste hierarchy we go, the closer we get to a low waste, low carbon economy and the  more jobs we create. “ says Sue Coutts. “Developing New Zealand’s resource recovery industry will create good local jobs to replace those lost in other sectors as we make the transition.”

“Reducing methane emissions from organics in landfill are an important piece of the puzzle. We would love to see more investment in community scale composting which will keep organic materials out of landfill in the first place,” says Sue Coutts.

 “Once we have more good local and regional composting systems in place we can ban organic material from landfill to make faster progress. Austria, Germany, Finland, Norway and Sweden have done this already.“

The Climate Commission advocates for a holistic approach to achieving our emission reductions targets. Work being done by the waste sector on product stewardship schemes will help reduce our emissions. 

A beverage container return scheme will increase recycling rates and replace virgin raw materials with recycled content. An E-waste scheme will use ‘urban mining’ to recover precious metals and rare earths which reduces emissions from extraction and refining. Product stewardship schemes make it easy for households and businesses to do good quality recycling.

“The Government is developing a new waste strategy this year, it is critical that it sets stretch targets and focuses on waste reduction to put New Zealand on the path to a low waste, low carbon circular economy,” says Sue Coutts.

“The Zero Waste Network will be coordinating a sector response to the Commission’s draft report with the aim of strengthening the relationship between waste reduction and emissions reductions.”