New Zealand plans to invest in more recycling plants as it deals with China waste ban

By Charlotte Greenfield

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - 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.

New Zealand had been sending 15 million kgs (33 million pounds) - worth around NZ$21 million ($14.67 million) - a year of waste to China, mostly paper and plastics that were now piling up as waste companies scrambled to divert it to processors in South-East Asia.

"The ban has had a greater impact than the industry expected and we need a coordinated response from central and local government, together with the waste and business sectors," Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage said in an emailed statement.

The government plans to use its existing waste levy to invest in more onshore recycling plants, she added.

China, the world's biggest importer of plastic waste, has stopped accepting shipments of rubbish, such as plastic and paper, as part of a campaign against "foreign garbage".

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.

Much of New Zealand's waste had been diverted to processing plants in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, but some stockpiles were building up around the country.

"We are also looking at options such as expanding the waste levy to more landfills, improving the data we have on waste including recyclables, and other tools to reduce the environment harm of products such as product stewardship, levies and bans," Sage said.

Governments in Britain, the European Union and Australia have announced plans to confront growing waste as a result of ban with the British introducing a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and the EU mulling a plastic tax.

($1 = 1.4316 New Zealand dollars)

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Michael Perry)