Seeking ways to minimise waste and save money?

13 October 2021

What you need to know and how we can help. 

It’s no secret that the world is facing a waste crisis. How to reduce it, pay for it, its impact on our public and planet’s health, and where it ends up are just some of the concerns we’re grappling with. 

The good news is, Total Utilities can help you identify, monitor, and reduce your waste. Here’s why engaging us as your waste management consultant is so important. 

Waste is costly for our planet and business

Our growing waste problem is not only costly to the environment but expensive for businesses. New Zealand faces rising transport and disposal costs, changes to national policy and levies, and uncertainty around where to export our recycling when we don’t have the facilities to handle it here.   

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), our government’s primary climate change response, plays a leading role in how we collectively manage waste and reach our internationally established targets. Our 2030 target, which is New Zealand’s first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, is as follows:

“our net emissions will be 30 per cent below 2005 (or 11 per cent below 1990) gross emissions for the period 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2030.”

Waste is a specified activity under the ETS, so those in the waste sector must participate in the scheme. This means disposal facility operators must report their emissions to the government. They need to pay for permits to emit carbon and can offset their emissions. Land disposal facilities have options: they can either decarbonise their activities, face mounting costs, or offset their emissions by supporting climate action projects like forestry and conservation.  

The most cost-effective and sustainable path for landfill facilities is to find ways to reduce their emissions. The government incentivises these facilities to find and deliver innovation and efficiencies by becoming eligible to apply for a Unique Emissions Factor. You can read about this here.

Waste levy increases

Growing pressure to address climate change, the uncertainty surrounding recycling commodity returns and stricter separation and hygiene standards are all factors behind the government’s decision to raise waste levies. 

The levy increase will be phased in over four years, the first of which happened in July 2021. Levies will increase to a maximum of $60 per tonne by 2024.

These increases are designed to encourage more recycling and to divert waste from landfills. The costs apply regardless of which waste supplier you choose. 

Based on the average industry wage, the cost increase would equate to an additional $22 per 4.5m³ front-end load pick up. We’re investigating with each supplier how this cost will be passed on. 

The big issue: Spoiled or contaminated recycling

In a 2018 Stuff article, Green Party MP, Eugenie Sage, who was the Associate Environment Minister at the time said, “The co-mingling of waste like glass, paper and plastic was what led China to stop accepting it.” 

One solution is to improve the quality of our waste by changing our behaviour – getting better at sorting and separating our waste at the source.

Countries no longer taking some recyclables creates greater uncertainty 

Now that the Chinese market doesn’t accept specific categories of recyclables, costs have grown significantly.

The Chinese government also signalled to reduce its annual cardboard recycling quota by six million tonnes (10% of global demand). This means the cardboard price will drop further – it’s a market characterised by extreme pricing uncertainty.

China’s ban had a massive ripple effect on where millions of tonnes of waste ended up. Indonesia bore the substantial brunt of this.  

In late 2019, the Indonesian government was looking to pass urgent legislation which would allow them to legally return spoiled recycling back to the port of origin, not the last port of call. 

Indonesia has now closed its market to recycling and has indicated it would only re-open if spoiled waste could be sent back to the country of origin.

How the tightening of global spoilage standards will affect us.

Stricter global spoilage standards will affect the ongoing rates for recycling in New Zealand. The market has not priced all these factors in yet. Under the current uncertain climate, suppliers are unable to fix pricing for recycling.

How Total Utilities can help you navigate the costs and changes.

By working closely with our specialist waste consulting partners, suppliers, and customers, you can achieve reduced waste charges and levies, improved monitoring and reporting of your waste systems, and ultimately send less waste to landfill. This is a win for your bottom line and the environment. 

Navigating the waste environment alone is complicated – it takes a deep understanding of the political, environmental, and global trends and policies. We expect that what happens to our waste will continue to be complex for many years to come. 

Total Utilities has a finger on the pulse of policy, pricing and procurement. We can effectively interpret the changes and identify smart ways for you to contribute towards a more efficient, greener, cleaner planet. 

That’s good for everyone.