The flow-on impact of China's recycling ban has been bigger than our industry expected, prompting the launch of a new taskforce.
Fifteen million kilograms of waste materials including mixed recyclables had been sent to China from New Zealand each year, prior to the ban.
New Zealand is planning to invest more in recycling plants and set up government-led taskforce to work out how to grapple with the fallout from China's ban on waste imports, its associate environment minister said on Thursday.
Most of it was mixed paper and mixed plastics that weren't recycled locally the way other recyclables like glass, aluminium and cardboard were.
The ban has upended the world's waste handling supply chain and caused massive pile-ups of trash from Asia to Europe, as exporters struggled to find new buyers for the garbage.
"The ban has had deeper impacts than anticipated and the recycling sector is facing rising pressure from the significant drop in global commodity prices", Ms Sage said.
Last month, the Herald reported some grades of plastic waste collected by Wellington City Council had been temporarily stored while markets improved, but these products were now being sold overseas, although at a lower price. "It is clear that this situation is not sustainable", she said.
She said the government is now using funds from the waste levy to invest in projects such as onshore recycling plants.
Today, the sector has released a discussion document titled Rebooting Recycling - What can Aotearoa do?
New Zealand's recycling sector has been diverting most of the materials that is not recycled here to processing plants in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
"Without positive action to address the issue, recyclable material could be sent to landfill, councils and communities will suffer financially, and operators could go out of business". Short term actions include a Ministerial initiated funding stream for councils and operators, a public awareness program about recycling, communications, and better quality industry-wide data on recyclable materials.
"While there is a lot to do, everything that has been set out in this discussion paper can be achieved using existing funding sources and legislation. But we need decisive action" said Evans.