Quantity of solid waste sent to landfill indicator update

For the latest national reporting see Environment Aotearoa 2015.

October 2012; INFO 654

Key points

  • In 2011, 2.461 million tonnes of solid waste was disposed of to municipal landfills in New Zealand, similar to the amount disposed of in 2010.
  • There are further opportunities to reduce the amount of waste disposed of to municipal landfills. Approximately three-quarters of waste disposed of to municipal landfills could have been potentially diverted by being recovered, reused or recycled.

Results

In 2011, 2.461 million tonnes of waste was disposed of to municipal landfills.1,2 This is similar to the 2.531 million tonnes in 2010.1 The figure below shows estimates of waste disposed of to municipal landfills since 1998. However, due to improved accuracy of waste disposal information from 2010 due to the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 (the Act), and high uncertainties for earlier estimates, it is not advisable to compare data before and after the implementation of the Act and report trends over time.

 

Waste disposed of to municipal landfills, 1998 – 2006, 2010, 2011

Waste disposed of to municipal landfills, 1998 – 2006, 2010, 2011

Source: Ministry for the Environment

 

This graph provides data on waste disposal to municipal landfills in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2011. Due to improved accuracy of waste disposal information from 2010 and high uncertainties for previous estimates, it is not advisable to compare these data and report trends over time.

Year 1998 2002 2006 2010 2011
Tonnes 2,765,020 3,022,000 3,156,000 2,531,000 2,461,000

 

Background

Waste comprises a mixture of many different materials, including organic, paper, plastic, metal, timber and potentially hazardous substances. Waste can be generated at different times during a product’s life cycle:

  • when raw natural resources are extracted or harvested to manufacture the product
  • during manufacturing
  • when goods are packaged, transported, consumed and eventually disposed of.3

Waste can represent an inefficient use of resources, or a loss of resources. Many potentially reusable and recyclable materials such as paper, plastic, organic waste, glass and metal, are disposed of to landfills.4 Some forms of waste produce greenhouse gases and others can have significant health impacts on humans and animals. Waste can also pollute our waterways, air and land if it is not adequately managed.

The amount of waste being disposed of can be an indication of how efficiently we are using some of our natural resources. When combined with waste composition and diversion information, it can help inform waste minimisation policies and initiatives.

Reducing waste disposal to municipal landfills

Individual, community, and local and central government initiatives in recent years have successfully diverted large amounts of waste from landfills. For example, the recovery of packaging (which includes aluminium, glass, paper, plastics and steel) increased by 26 per cent to approximately 430,000 tonnes between 2004 and 2009.5

Participation in recycling by households has also increased in recent years – from 85 per cent in 2000 to 94 per cent in 2010.6 A 2010 survey indicated that 78 per cent of households recycled all or most of those items that they knew could be recycled.7

There are further opportunities to reduce the amount of waste disposed of to municipal landfills. A 2008 survey of waste composition in municipal landfills showed that approximately three-quarters of the waste disposed of to municipal landfills could have been potentially diverted by being recovered, reused or recycled.4 Other recent surveys showed that similar proportions of domestic waste being disposed of to municipal landfills could have also been potentially diverted.8

The amount of waste disposed of can also be reduced at other stages of a product’s life cycle. This can include employing more efficient processes to extract raw materials, improving the efficiency of designs, and using materials more efficiently in the production process.4

 

1 This is the quantity of waste that the waste disposal levy was collected on. The waste disposal levy is applied to waste received by disposal facilities, as defined by the Waste Minimisation Act 2008. It excludes diverted (recovered, reused or recycled) materials.

2 This figure has accounted for the quantity of waste generated from the Christchurch earthquakes.

3 Ministry for the Environment. 2007. Environment New Zealand 2007. Wellington: Ministry for the Environment.

4 Ministry for the Environment. 2009. Solid Waste Composition: Environmental Report Card. Wellington: Ministry for the Environment. Retrieved from Ministry for the Environment website (30 March 2012).

5 Packaging Council of New Zealand. 2009. New Zealand Packaging Accord 2004. Year Five Progress Report. Auckland: Packaging Council of New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.packaging.org.nz/assets/Uploads/Packaging-Accord-Year5-Report.pdf (30 March 2012).

6 Hughey KFD, Keer GN, Cullen R. 2010. Public Perceptions of New Zealand’s Environment: 2010. Christchurch: EOS Ecology.

7 Statistics New Zealand. 2011. New Zealand General Social Survey: 2010. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/people_and_communities/Households/nzgss_HOTP2010.aspx (30 March 2012).

8 Ministry for the Environment. Unpublished. Recycling information and practices.

 

Reviewed:
17/07/13