Have Your Say When Councils Talk Trash: Waste Management and Minimisation Plans
- The Waste Minimisation Act 2008 requires city/district councils to produce a Waste Management and Minimisation Plan (WMMP) and to review it every six years (sections 43 and 50).
- In these 6-yearly reviews, councils have to explain the waste situation in their district/city (called a Waste Assessment), set objectives for effective waste management and minimisation, and explain how they intend to achieve these objectives.
- Councils are obliged to consult with the public on the draft WMMP that results from their 6-yearly reviews – this is your chance to have your say.
- Check your local council website and see when the review of your local WMMP is next up for consultation (it may have already happened, it may be currently under consultation right now, or it will be just around the corner!)
- If the review of your local WMMP is up for consultation – read the draft plan and make a submission! You can talk with others around you, and local community groups and organisations, to brainstorm strategies for making an informed submission.
- Even if you’ve missed the round of consultations, read the most up to date WMMP for your region – it’ll contain information about the waste situation in your city/district (vital for understanding what waste issues households, businesses and organisations in your area most need to work on) AND you’ll be able to see what the council has committed to do to reduce waste, so you can check up on how they are going and hold them to account!
As mind-numbingly boring as the words “Waste Management and Minimisation Plan” (WMMP) or “Submit on the Council’s Draft Waste Minimisation and Management Plan” may sound, we’re here to tell you that:
- these Plans are a treasure trove of information for making you a local waste expert; and
- if you want your voice heard on waste minimisation issues, the consultation process of the WMMP review is actually your greatest chance, and it only comes up once every six years.
Submitting on your council’s Draft Waste Management and Minimisation Plan
Have you ever wished that your council would approach waste differently? Would you like to see your council strive for a goal of zero waste, or set targets for waste reduction? Perhaps you wish the council never took away the waste contract from your local community recycling centre, or you would like your council to consider supporting the growth of such centres in your region. Maybe you dream of the day that you’ll see a kerbside pick-up of food scraps/organic waste because you know people who, for whatever reason, can’t or won’t compost their food scraps at home.
You might also want to make your view heard on how recycling is managed in your region – for example, would you support putting rates towards funding glass being turned back into bottles rather than put into roads? What about all that construction and demolition waste – could council start to think about diverting that? What’s your council’s position on product stewardship, plastic bag levies and container deposit schemes and would you like them to advocate for these things to central government?
Well, section 50 of the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 requires Councils to review their WMMP every six years. In this review, Councils must explain the current waste situation in the region or district, and then establish objectives/policies for how they will reduce waste over the coming six years. The draft WMMP coming out of this review must then go out for consultation with the public, who are entitled to submit on the plan and the targets/objectives proposed.
Many councils have already completed this 6-yearly process recently – either in 2017 or earlier in 2018. However, there are several draft WMMPs up for consultation RIGHT NOW, or soon to be. Check your local council’s website to find out what the deal is in your area. If the draft WMMP is up for consultation, have a read of it and consider making a submission. To help you in this, look around and see if there are community groups who are encouraging the public to submit on the plan – what are their views? Perhaps they are running workshops or info sessions to help you read between the lines and understand the key issues and opportunities. For example, check out (Appendix, below) the infographic that Wellington-based community group GoEco Kelburn Highbury produced in 2017, to help residents make sense of the WMMP for the Greater Wellington Region. There’s lots of nifty things we can do as a community to make the submission process seem less daunting.
What if you’ve missed the boat to submit on your local Council’s draft WMMP for this 6-year cycle?
That is annoying, but we still recommend you read your local WMMP, for three reasons.
Reason 1: Knowledge is Power
Some really interesting nuggets of info can be found in these documents. Your local WMMP is vital reading for understanding how much waste your region produces, per capita, what that waste is made up of, and where it goes. For example, did you know that:
- In 2016 the waste that Aucklanders sent to landfill could fill Eden Park to the height of one and a half Sky Towers? (p.33 of Draft Auckland Waste Management and Minimisation Plan 2018)
- Between 2012 and 2016, Hamilton’s waste to landfill increased by 33% (p.4 of Draft Hamilton Waste Management and Minimisation Plan)?
- That the Greater Wellington Region has one of the country’s highest per capita rates of household waste to landfill (200kg per person each year) and one of the country’s lowest household recycling rates (p.14 of Wellington Region’s Waste Management and Minimisation Plan 2017-2023)?
You’ll also get a sense of how much divertable material is going to landfill. In most parts of New Zealand, when you add it up, organics, paper, plastic and glass make up close to 60-80% of household waste to landfill. WMMPs show us that the single biggest chunk of waste in most parts of the country is organic (food and green waste). These stats show us what we need to focus on!
It’s important to be informed about the waste issues in your region so you can understand how best to talk with people about waste, how best to reduce your own waste footprint and that of businesses and organisations around you, and the key issues that your community needs work on. There’s a lot of focus on plastic waste amongst the public these days, but WMMPs show us that there are many other waste issues in New Zealand. We believe that a passionate public can advocate on more than one waste issue at the same time – we just need to know what those issues are.
Reason 2: Hold your Council to Account
In WMMPs, council should establish objectives/policies that they will put in place for the following six years in order to manage and minimise waste. In the recent round of draft WMMPs, many councils have proposed kerbside organic waste collections to address the problem of food waste going to landfill. Others, such as Auckland, have proposed developing a network of community recycling centres. Many councils have set tangible targets for waste reduction over the coming 6-year period (some as high as 30% reduction). The commitment to lobby central government to implement policies that will help EVERYONE reduce waste (such as plastic bag levies, container deposit schemes, and product stewardship) are a frequent feature of WMMPs. These are golden nuggets for communities to campaign on; they give us a leg to stand on when we call for council actions that can help us to reduce waste.
So, let’s read these plans and hold our councils to account.
Reason 3: Learn what Role You can Play
We believe it’s vital to recognise that, by and large, councils work really hard to live up to their statutory responsibility to manage and minimise waste (even if sometimes they can be frustratingly bumbly in how they go about it…). Often councils find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place, with central government unwilling to implement sorely needed nationwide waste policies (a reluctance that, frankly, makes council’s job much harder), contractors who have motivations that conflict with councils’ (often commercially incentivised to increase waste to landfill and to withhold valuable data), and ratepayers who resist rates increases in the short-term to cover the costs of services that would reduce the cost of waste in the long-term (like organic waste collection).
In some ways, you can interpret a WMMP as that moment when council waves its arms in the air and says “hello, everyone, this is what we’re trying to do here, it’s really hard, can you help us out?” For many councils we detect almost a plea to ratepayers, residents and businesses to get on board with the shared goal of waste reduction.
So, with this in mind, we encourage you to read your local WMMP to find out what your council considers important when it comes to waste management and minimisation. You might find that you agree with your council’s waste vision. The plan may even help you to see your own role to play in achieving that vision, whatever that vision is – diversion from landfill, community waste reduction, a goal of zero waste, or some good, strong central government policy. Ultimately, we are all constituent parts of our community. The buck may stop with council to manage and minimise our waste for us, but it is just that – our waste.