Waste Management: Productivity Commission Draft Report
Presented at the Waste Management Institute NZ Inc
Eighteenth Annual Conference held in Christchurch
7-9 November 2006
by Matthew Warnken

Waste management and resource recovery issues are an integral part of the sustainability debate, especially given the emergence of the 'throw-away' society and its associated linear flows of resources associated with a 'take-make-waste' system of production and consumption. In response many governments around the world have introduced waste diversion targets, with some jurisdictions aspiring towards zero waste. However, the challenge of increasing resource recovery invariably devolves to a comparison of the costs and benefits of recycling.

The Productivity Commission Inquiry into Waste Generation and Resource Efficiency was established to examine these costs and benefits of recycling. The focus of the Inquiry was to examine ways in which, and make recommendations on how, resource efficiencies can be optimised to improve economic, environmental and social outcomes.

The Productivity Commission's draft report 'Waste Management' was released in May 2006 and presented the Commission's preliminary findings and recommendations on waste generation and resource efficiency based on a 'net social benefits approach' delivered through 'economic efficiency'. The overall conclusion of the draft report was that 'best practice' landfill, combined in some circumstances with appropriate kerbside recycling, remains the preferred option for dealing with municipal waste. The final report is expected to be released before March 2007.

This paper presents an overview of the Productivity Commission's draft report 'Waste Management'. Following an overview of the original terms of reference to the Inquiry, an examination of the methodology used in the Commission's assessment of Waste Generation and Resource Efficiency is provided. The draft key findings and recommendations from 'Waste Management' are presented, followed by the potential implications for resource recovery, should the draft recommendations be implemented. The paper concludes by examining some of the critical points that need to be addressed in the final report, in particular, the societal costs of greenhouse gas emissions.

>> Click here to download the conference paper

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