The Waste Levy: Don’t fund the problem – fund real solutions!

New Zealand has a waste and recycling crisis. There are stockpiles of plastics around the country, recycling markets have disappeared and heaps of stuff is still going to landfill due to poor collection processes and contamination. Despite 12 years of the Waste Minimisation Act, the piles of waste just keep growing. 

New Zealand urgently needs more onshore reprocessing, community solutions and waste minimisation education.

Raising the waste levy will help to fund local solutions. The waste levy hasn’t changed from $10 per tonne since the Waste Minimisation Act was passed in 2008. Research shows $10 per tonne is not enough to build the infrastructure we need or change wasteful behavior.

We can’t keep going with the ‘take-make-waste’ way of doing things because our environment and climate are at breaking point. Raising the waste levy will help fund the shift to a circular economy, creating lasting jobs and building community resilience against the kinds of shocks we are seeing more and more often. 

An increase in the waste levy would:

Create jobs

NZ research (1) shows that we can create up to 10,000 jobs with a phased-in increase to the waste levy. These jobs are created when we collect all of the materials we can reuse and keep materials onshore for processing.

Support council waste minimisation programmes

Half of all of the money collected from the waste levy goes to local authorities for waste minimisation. (2) A higher waste levy = more money to local authorities = more funding to waste minimisation in each region

Develop real recycling infrastructure

The Ministry for the Environment has identified a $1.5 billion gap in our current waste infrastructure. The waste levy will help fill the gap by investing in onshore reprocessing facilities and resource recovery.

Keep NZ in step with other countries

New Zealand is way out of step with international practice. Despite our ‘clean, green’ image, most countries have a significantly higher levy rate than NZ eg UK rate is $162 per tonne and NSW is $84.10 – $146. (3)

Support rural communities

The New Zealand Rural Waste Minimisation Project (partially funded by the waste levy ) provides waste pick-ups and events in rural communities, including opportunities for farmers to recycle or safely dispose of agricultural waste such as agrichemical containers, used motor oil and soft plastics such as silage and bale wrap. An expanded levy would have positive flow-on effects making it easier for farmers and rural communities to take care of farm waste.

Help New Zealand take responsibility for our waste

We have a responsibility to deal with the waste we’ve created, not to pass that burden on to our children and grandchildren. The money from the waste levy will allow us to do that in a sensible and structured way. We’ve got the opportunity now to deal with the waste crisis and reduce waste for the future, so why wouldn’t we? 

Bring every site into the scheme

Right now, the levy is only applied to sites that handle an estimated 30% of all waste sent for disposal. It doesn’t cover construction and demolition landfills at all, despite this being a huge contributor to NZ’s overall waste volume. Bringing in all classes of landfills would level the unevenness of the current system, and increase the money available to invest in waste minimisation.

Can households afford an increased levy?

The actual amount households would have to pay is very small. A person who makes an average amount of waste would pay just 30 cents extra a week, if the levy was raised to $50 a tonne. (4) Obviously, the more people do to reduce their waste – by reducing what they buy, composting, reusing and recycling – the less they pay. 

The whole point of the waste levy is to stop the disposal of waste to landfill. By building the infrastructure that NZ needs to recycle, to repair and to reuse materials, we will get to a point where there is nothing to throw away – and when that happens, there is nothing left to levy! 


(1) Eunomia Research & Consulting. (2017) THE NEW ZEALAND WASTE DISPOSAL LEVY: Potential Impacts of Adjustments to the Current Levy Rate and Structure Final Report (p33)

(2) Waste Minimisation Act 2008. Section 31


(4) For a family who has an average per capita waste production (314 kilograms per annum), the direct cost of the levy to them would increase from $3.14 plus GST (at a levy of $10 per tonne) to $15.70 plus GST per year (at a levy of $50 per tonne)