Regulation changes fail to appease scrap merchants
The scrap metal industry has succeeded in having a last-minute change proposed to the Waste Minimisation Bill, to separate recyclable materials out from council control.
Green Party MP Russel Norman lodged a supplementary order paper (SOP) in Parliament yesterday, as the Waste Minimisation Bill awaits its third reading.
However, the SOP came too late to avert a protest planned by the Scrap Metal Recyclers Association of NZ, planned for this afternoon.
The association said it was protesting over “being completely ignored” in policy development of the bill.
The new SOP proposes a change in the definitions of the bill, introducing a category of "diverted materials" to cover items that are going to be recycled or re-used instead of heading to landfill.
Previously all materials fell under a broad definition of waste in the bill.
Scrap Metal Association president Trevor Munro said the protest would still go ahead as it was time for the industry to “come out of the woodwork.”
Defining scrap metal as waste would have hindered the $1 billion export industry, he said.
“We can’t afford to be labelled as waste,” he said. “A lot of countries have rules on what you can and can’t import.”
He said lawmakers should follow overseas leads on the issue.
Britain’s Environment Agency moved away from classifying scrap as waste after a 1998 court case battle over waste regulations.
But here, as in overseas cases, the issue is as much about local regulation as it is export markets.
According to a Ministry briefing paper obtained by NBR, the main effect of the change will be on local councils’ ability to license commercial collectors of recyclable materials.
The commercial recycling industry has previously had success through the courts in repealing a move from Auckland councils to license waste collectors, a case that kicked off revisions to waste laws in the first place.
The Waste Minimisation Bill will still enable councils to license waste collectors and require them to provide information on how much rubbish they are transporting to landfill.
The scrap metal association was willing to provide statistics on material processed if it was classed as recyclable, the ministry paper notes.
But Waitakere City Council waste manager Jon Roscoe said councils should either be fully involved in reporting on waste or not at all.
“Don’t have us halfway, providing inaccurate data, because it’s just a waste of ratepayer money,” he said.
It appears from the briefing paper that the change will not affect the bill’s landfill levy.
Organisations including the Packaging Council have previously argued that recyclers should not have to pay the levy on any remaining waste that they dispose of after recycling.
The ministry paper notes scrap metal will often still be defined as waste under the Basel Convention.