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Published: 2012-04-17 00:00:00

A new strategy due to be adopted later this month sets out how the Waikato will reduce 700,000 tonnes of waste going to the region’s landfills each year and turn the remainder into a valuable resource capable of  returning millions of dollars to the region’s economy.

The Draft Waikato Waste and Resource Efficiency Strategy 2012 moved a step closer to adoption when it was endorsed at Waikato Regional Council’s policy and strategy committee meeting last week.

Council waste minimisation facilitator Marianna Tyler said information on quantities and types of product going to landfill is limited. The strategy aims to redress that, so further commercial opportunities for the region can be identified.

“There are wasted resources currently going to landfill that could potentially be turned into millions of dollars of high-value product. We know, for example, that over 125,000 tonnes of organic waste currently going to landfill could instead be composted or turned into valuable feedstock.

“Traditionally waste has been seen as something quite negative, but when it is viewed as a resource it holds a huge development opportunity for the Waikato, which receives over one-third of the North Island’s total waste into its municipal landfills,” Ms Tyler said.

“A regional, and cross regional, approach is required to address some of the issues we have, as the movement of waste is not restricted by district, city or regional boundaries.”

Ms Tyler said the regional council will continue to work closely with local councils on initiatives aimed at reducing waste and increasing resource efficiency.

Policy and strategy committee chairperson Paula Southgate said products needed to be made to last and barriers to recycling reduced.

“These issues will be addressed through a review of regulatory functions to identify any barriers to waste minimisation or gaps, inconsistencies or opportunities to increase waste minimisation activities without compromising environmental standards,” Cr Southgate said.

The strategy’s focus is mainly on solid resources currently disposed of to landfill, but also addresses hazardous and harmful solid and liquid wastes.

Its aim is to protect Waikato communities, land, water and air from harmful and hazardous wastes. It also encourages resource efficiency and beneficial reuse that creates sustainable, economic growth.

It will achieve these goals by:

  • implementing a waste data and information network, as well as conducting waste and infrastructure studies
  • reviewing regulations related to waste activities
  • reducing the harmful impacts of waste by providing education and support towards initiatives that divert harmful and hazardous wastes from the environment
  • supporting industry sectors to reduce use of resources and generation of waste
  • supporting research projects that explore the development and application of sustainable, innovative and alternative solutions to waste disposal
  • working collaboratively with local authorities and other councils to support waste minimisation objectives, building relationships with relevant central government agencies, industry associations and tertiary and research institutes, and supporting industry and community engagement with the Waste Minimisation Fund.

Developed in partnership with industry, local territorial authorities, the community, Ministry for the Environment, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Auckland Council, the strategy sets out a series of initiatives, actions, responsibilities and timeframes.

Industry and local councils have indicated they will co-fund some of the projects. This collaborative funding will be used to leverage additional funding from the contestable component of the national $20 million Waste Minimisation Fund.

Meanwhile, an advisory group comprising representatives from the private, public and community sectors will support the implementation and annual review of the strategy.

Since the previous strategy was introduced in 2003, more than 7000 tonnes of waste has been diverted from Waikato landfills each year via The Waste Exchange.