[GRRN] Fw: Zero Waste New Zealand Update

Bill Sheehan (bill_sheehan@mindspring.com)
Thu, 16 Dec 1999 19:00:40 -0500

I just returned from a week in New Zealand where
I was the guest of the Zero Waste New Zealand Trust
(ZWNZT), a non-profit entity whose purpose is to
make NZ the first zero waste nation. They have a
strong emphasis on community economic development
and turning 'junk into jobs." The Trust is a project of a
foundation set up by a highly successful retailer, and
the director of both the foundation and the Trust,
Warren Snow, was a community-based recycler before
starting the Trust in 1997.

ZWNZT has a bottom-up strategy for getting to zero
waste, focusing on council (= local) government
officials and recycling practitioners (for-profit and non-
profit community groups). One of the keys to
ZWNZT's success is that they give small grants to both
council governments and recyclers who are committed
to zero waste from landfill. They give US$12,500
grants to councils that resolve to work "towards the
elimination of landfill as a disposal method and the re-
use of all materials in an environmentally sustainable
manner" [Incineration is not supported either, and there
are none in NZ.] The money is not a lot, but since
discretionary funds are scarce in local waste
management budgets it seems to be effective in
initiating change and in leveraging other funds.

I was invited to address the National Zero Waste Pilot
Project Conference, attended by representatives from
20 of New Zealand's 74 council governments. In the
past six months, fourteen councils (representing 15%
of the country's population) have already committed to
"zero waste from landfill" - most by 2015 -- and more
are keen on following suit. The councils that have
signed on represent a cross section from small, rural to
fairly large, and the 14 represent about 15% of the
country's population.

Conference participants were keenly interested in our
(GRRN's) work on promoting extended producer
responsibility and changing policies that encourage
wasting. Most seemed to recognize that there are limits
to what can be achieved "at the end of the pipe."

Several circumstances account for the momentum of
the New Zealand zero waste movement. First, New
Zealand (pop. 3.8 million) has a can-do ethos. They
were the first nation to give women the vote, and the
first to ban nuclear weapons. Second, NZ is
increasingly dependent on tourism and maintaining a
'clean-green' image and they recognize the threat that
landfills and incinerators pose. Third, NZ is
undergoing a major political shift - from a decade-plus
of experimentation with privatizing and free market
policies to the election several weeks ago of a center-
left government in which the Green Party holds a
pivotal role. The parliamentary Commissioner for the
Environment addressed our conference and is
recommending that the new government work with
ZWNZT and the councils committed to zero waste.

New Zealand has less recycling infrastructure than the
U.S. in many respects. New Zealand seems to have the
potential to challenge the waste management
establishment and leapfrog ahead of us. At minimum,
they have hit on a potent grassroots strategy for
challenging the waste management status quo. They
are doing it in a non-dogmatic way that is empowering
and unleashing creativity. Overall, it is encouraging.
Stay tunded .....

Bill Sheehan
Network Coordinator
GrassRoots Recycling Network
P.O. Box 49283
Athens GA 30604-9283
Tel: 706-613-7121
Fax: 706-613-7123