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Current state and trends

It is estimated that around 8.7 million tonnes of solid waste (from domestic, commercial, industrial, and institutional waste sources) was generated in New Zealand in 2006, of which 2.4 million tonnes was subsequently diverted from disposal to landfills (Waste Not Consulting, 2006). This means that approximately 6.3 million tonnes of waste are sent to landfill and cleanfill sites each year. When averaged across the total population, that represents 1,572 kilograms of solid waste per person per year.

Waste to landfill

Waste volumes

Estimates of the total quantities of solid waste disposed of to landfill in New Zealand since 1990 are shown in Figure 6.1. Estimates have varied significantly since 1990, partly as a result of the changing quality of available waste data.

Figure 6.1 shows that the estimated amount of solid waste disposed of to landfill in New Zealand decreased slightly from 1995 to 2006, from 3.180 million tonnes or 898 kilograms per person per year in 1995, to 3.156 million tonnes or 784 kilograms per person per year in 2006. During this period, New Zealand’s wealth, expressed as real gross domestic product (GDP) (adjusted for inflation), increased by 40 per cent, largely as a result of expansion in the economic sectors that are major sources of waste (for example, agriculture, manufacturing, transport, tourism, energy, and construction).

Converted to tonnes of waste disposed of to landfills per thousand dollars of GDP, the estimated waste disposed of in 2006 was 29 per cent lower than in 1995 (New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, pers comm). This decrease indicates a decoupling from economic growth of waste disposal to landfills. However, it is not known whether this decrease was accompanied by an increase in the waste disposed of to cleanfills or other disposal sites, such as construction and demolition waste landfills.

Although construction and demolition waste landfills are not consented to accept domestic, liquid, or hazardous waste, these landfills are thought to accept large quantities of the total waste disposed of in some areas of New Zealand.

Figure 6.1 shows that the amount of waste disposed of to landfills annually since 1998 has stabilised. This trend coincides with an increase in the availability of waste recovery initiatives and recycling services throughout New Zealand. At the same time, the proportion of local authorities applying user charges for landfills has now reached 93 per cent. User charges act as an incentive to reduce waste disposal to landfills.

Figure 6.1: Estimates of waste disposed of to landfill, 1983–2006, and number of landfills operating, 1995–2006

See figure at its full size (including text description).

Landfill management

Figure 6.1 shows that the number of landfills operating in New Zealand decreased from 327 in 1995 to 60 in 2006. This decrease is partly the result of a drive to improve the performance and management of landfills through the stronger environmental controls provided by the Resource Management Act 1991, national environmental standards, and best practice guidelines for landfill management. The decrease is also likely to reflect the introduction of user charges to landfills and the consolidation of some waste management operations.

Landfill management practices have greatly improved in the last decade. The proportion of landfills with an engineered liner (liners help to minimise leachate entering and contaminating surface and groundwater systems) rose from 4 per cent in 1998 to 54 per cent in 2006, while those that collect potentially hazardous landfill leachate rose from 13 per cent in 1995 to 77 per cent in 2006.

The proportion of landfills that collect methane gas and use it to generate energy has increased from 5 per cent in 1998 to 23 per cent in 2007. At larger landfills, this shift reflects new landfill gas management requirements under the national environmental standards. It also reflects a growing recognition of the benefits of reusing this potentially valuable waste gas.

Waste composition

No comprehensive data is available on the composition of solid waste disposed of to landfills in New Zealand. However, data from 16 waste facilities (representing more than 50 per cent of the waste disposed of to landfills in New Zealand) can be used to provide a ‘snapshot’ (see Figure 6.2) of waste composition (Waste Not Consulting, 2006). The percentages shown are indicative only, because the margin of error associated with analysing the composition of waste disposed of to landfills is typically 20 per cent.

Figure 6.2 indicates that nearly a quarter of the waste received at municipal landfills consists of organic material (23 per cent). Paper comprises 15 per cent, timber 14 per cent, and rubble and concrete 12 per cent. Potentially, these waste types can be diverted from landfills for reuse or reprocessing.

Figure 6.2: Estimates of the composition of waste disposed of to landfills, 2004

Source: Waste Not Consulting, 2006.

Text description of figure

 

Overall composition 

Organics

23%

Paper

15%

Plastic

9%

Ferrous metal

5%

Non-ferrous metal

1%

Glass

2%

Nappies & sanitary

3%

Textiles

4%

Rubble, concrete, etc

12%

Rubber

1%

Timber

14%

Potentially hazardous

11%

Waste to cleanfill sites

Cleanfill sites accept materials that, when buried, will have no harmful effect on people or the environment. These materials include natural materials that are free of combustible, biodegradable, or leachable components; hazardous substances; or liquid waste. The materials are also free of substances that may present a risk to human or animal health, such as medical and veterinary waste, asbestos, or radioactive substances.

Cleanfills are a permitted activity in many regional and district plans, provided they meet specified criteria. Because cleanfills are a permitted activity, only limited monitoring of them takes place. In addition, many cleanfills are commercially operated, and information about them is therefore considered to be commercially sensitive. Regional councils and territorial authorities estimate that there may be more than 300 cleanfills in New Zealand, although the actual number is not known.

From available information, it is estimated that between 0.65 to 0.91 tonnes of waste are disposed of to cleanfills in New Zealand for each person every year (Waste Not Consulting, 2006). From this estimate, the total amount of waste disposed of to cleanfills in New Zealand each year can be estimated at between 2.7 to 3.7 million tonnes per year. This amount is about the same as that of solid waste disposed of to landfills.

Recovered materials

The uptake in recycling in New Zealand has increased significantly over the last decade, as a result of major recovery and recycling initiatives that have been introduced to divert materials from going to landfills and cleanfills. These initiatives range from the recycling and composting services offered by local authorities and community-based groups, to industry-led recovery and recycling, and product stewardship schemes (see box ‘More about product stewardship’).

In 2005, municipal recycling diverted 329,283 tonnes of paper, plastic, glass, steel, and aluminium from landfills. When commercial waste is included, the total amount of material diverted from landfills each year in New Zealand is estimated to be about 2.4 million tonnes a year.

Seventy-three per cent of New Zealanders had access to kerbside recycling in 2006.

Photo of a child recycling an old soft drink bottle.

Source: Ministry for the Environment.

More about product stewardship

Industry sectors in New Zealand lead several business sustainability and waste minimisation programmes. In 2007, at least 10 sectors were involved in product stewardship schemes, which enabled manufacturers, brand owners, importers, and retailers to reduce the environmental effects of their products, throughout the production process, from manufacture to disposal.

The 2004 New Zealand Packaging Accord sets several waste minimisation targets for participating sectors, and monitors progress against these targets. The accord brings together recycling operators and representatives from the paper, plastic, glass, steel, and aluminium materials sectors, in partnership with local and central government. Each sector has a sector-specific action plan to reduce packaging and to increase the rates of recycling.

Agrecovery is a programme to recover empty plastic agrichemical containers from the agricultural and forestry sectors. Used containers are recovered at 52 local authority transfer stations around the country. Reuse of the containers includes shredding and reprocessing the plastic to make casings for underground electrical cable.

Schemes to reuse, recycle, or recover waste from electrical goods have also been introduced in New Zealand, including by Hewlett Packard, IBM, Dell, Fisher & Paykel, Vodafone, and Telecom.

Industrial recovery and recycling

Estimates of the amounts of some industrial waste diverted from landfills and cleanfills are shown in Table 6.1. However, the figures do not include:

  • materials diverted from one business to another

  • materials recovered and reused during commercial operations, such as the on-site recovery and reuse of building materials.

Table 6.1: Estimates of industry waste diverted from landfills and cleanfills annually

Waste stream Amount diverted (tonnes) Data source

Glass packaging

92,826

Packaging Accord Data for 2005

Paper

454,212

New Zealand Paperboard Packaging Association estimate for 2005

Plastics

39,100

Plastics New Zealand estimate for 2005

Scrap metal

495,000–550,000

Scrap Metal Recycling Association annual estimates for 2006

Construction and demolition

1 million

Estimates from direct contact with the construction and demolition industry

Source: Ministry for the Environment, 2007c.

Community recycling

As noted earlier, territorial authorities diverted an estimated 329,283 tonnes of glass packaging, scrap metal, plastics, and paper from landfills in 2005–2006, through kerbside recycling and drop-off centres.

Overall, 73 per cent of New Zealanders had access to kerbside recycling in 2006, up from 20 per cent in 1996, while 97 per cent of New Zealanders had access to either kerbside or drop-off recycling services. For New Zealanders with access to recycling services, 83 kilograms of waste per person was diverted to recycling each year.

Table 6.2 shows the availability of recycling services provided by territorial authorities in metropolitan, urban, and rural areas.

Table 6.2: Recycling in metropolitan, urban, and rural areas, 2006

  New Zealand population in area (%) Population with access to kerbside recycling (%) Population with access to recycling facilities (%) Territorial authorities providing green waste facilities (%)

Metropolitan

52

97

99.7

70

Urban

24

53

97

84

Rural

24

45

92

64

Note:
Metropolitan area include Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin

Source: Ministry for the Environment, 2007c.

Local action to reduce waste

Christchurch cleanfill bylaw

Christchurch City Council introduced its Cleanfill Licensing Bylaw in 2003 to regulate the types of material that can be disposed of to local cleanfills. The bylaw encouraged the recovery, reuse, and recycling of materials by imposing a levy on ‘non-natural’ materials.

In the first year following the introduction of the bylaw, the total annual volume of material disposed of to cleanfills dropped from 370,000 to 300,000 cubic metres, a reduction of about 20 per cent. Around 15 per cent of this reduction was estimated to be directly attributable to the levy.

In 2005–2006, the total volume of materials disposed of to cleanfills increased by 12 per cent, reflecting the continuing high levels of construction activity in Christchurch. However, materials on which the levy was charged increased less (8 per cent) than other materials that did not attract the levy (15 per cent). The proportion of materials on which the levy is charged has decreased from 38 per cent to 36 per cent of the total materials disposed of to cleanfills in the city.

In March 2006, the High Court of New Zealand ruled that the section of the bylaw containing the levy on ‘non-natural’ materials was ultra vires (beyond the legal powers of the Council), and the bylaw was thus overturned. Since then, disposal prices have remained at the level that included the levy, even though the levy is no longer being collected. Waste minimisation levels have also remained similar to those when the levy was in place.

Second Hand Sundays

Gisborne District Council has made progress over the past few years in reducing the level of community waste being disposed of to landfills and in increasing the rates of recycling. Refuse collection volumes are down 59 per cent since 1999. Recycling tonnages are up 52 per cent since 2000.

A number of innovative Council programmes have contributed to this success. One such initiative is Second Hand Sundays, well-publicised days on which people may put used goods out on the kerbside for others in the community to take away for reuse. Each time this initiative is run, about 50 tonnes of waste is diverted from landfills.

Kai to Compost

Kai to Compost is a food waste collection scheme for restaurants and businesses in Wellington city. The scheme collects food waste from restaurants and takes it to the Living Earth plant at the Southern Landfill, where the material is mixed with green waste and used to produce compost.

A trial scheme was funded by the Ministry for the Environment’s Sustainable Management Fund, Wellington City Council, and Living Earth and involved 50 local businesses. The scheme is now run on a user-pays basis. Up until the end of 2006, the Council had collected 456 tonnes of food waste as part of the programme (177 tonnes in 2005–2006 and 278 tonnes in 2006–2007), which has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 411 tonnes.

Kai to Compost food waste collection scheme.

Photo of a man surrounded by food waste that will be used to produce compost.

Source: Courtesy of Mark Coote.

Business and community initiatives

Throughout New Zealand, a large number of non-government organisations have set up programmes to work with the community to reduce waste and promote recycling and resource efficiency. These organisations include professional and industry associations, and not-for-profit organisations such as the Waste Management Institute of New Zealand, New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, Sustainable Business Network, Packaging Council of New Zealand, and Zero Waste New Zealand Trust. The programmes also include a significant number of community-based recovery and recycling centres, which make an important contribution to the quantities of waste that are reused, recycled, and recovered in New Zealand.

Organic waste

Organic waste includes food (kitchen) waste, animal and human sewage waste, and garden waste. The agricultural and food and beverage sectors generate a large proportion of New Zealand’s organic waste. It also originates from wastewater treatment plants in the form of sewage sludge. Organic waste in landfills decomposes in the absence of oxygen, generating methane (a greenhouse gas), which contributes to climate change. Organic waste in landfills also creates leachate, which has the potential to contaminate surface and groundwater systems.

Only a small proportion of the organic waste produced in New Zealand is handled by territorial authorities. However, councils diverted an estimated 312,085 tonnes of organic waste from landfills in 2005–2006. Kitchen and garden waste made up 92 per cent of the total amount diverted (Ministry for the Environment, 2007c).

A 2004 survey estimated that organic waste represented 23 per cent, or 743,324 tonnes, of all waste disposed of to landfills (Waste Not Consulting, 2006) (see Figure 6.2). Notably, this percentage has reduced from 47 per cent according to a survey in 1995 (Ministry for the Environment, 1997). Even so, the 2004 result illustrates that potentially recoverable organic material continues to be disposed of to New Zealand landfills.

In 2005–2006, it was estimated that 153,885 tonnes of garden waste was diverted from landfills by territorial authorities. Garden waste is most commonly composted or mulched at transfer stations and some landfills. More than 70 per cent of local authorities provide this service.

New Zealanders compost an unknown quantity of food and garden waste at home.

Government action to minimise waste

Govt3 logo.

The Govt3 programme was established by the Ministry for the Environment in 2003 to encourage government departments to show leadership in waste minimisation as well as sustainability in buildings, transport, and the purchase of office consumables and equipment.

In the waste area, the Govt3 programme helps agencies reduce the waste they send to landfills by recycling and composting it instead.

By July 2007, 48 agencies had joined the Govt3 programme.

Wastewater disposal

Wastewater, which is made up of sewage, some stormwater and liquid trade waste, is usually very dilute. Domestic wastewater is discharged into the environment at a rate of approximately 1.5 billion litres a day (Ministry for the Environment, 2007d). Wastewater has the potential to physically alter and contaminate the environment into which it is discharged (that is, the sea or other waterways; see chapter 10, ‘Freshwater’ and chapter 11, ‘Oceans’ for further details).

Most domestic and commercial wastewater in New Zealand is treated at one of 320 public wastewater treatment plants before being discharged into the environment. Domestic wastewater is managed by septic tanks for 15–20 per cent of the population (Ministry for the Environment, 2005). Many industrial plants have their own wastewater treatment or pre-treatment facilities.

Tauranga wastewater treatment plant, activated sludge treatment (aerobic, right and anaerobic, left).

See caption above.

Source: Ministry for the Environment.

The degree of treatment, and the resulting quality of the treated wastewater, varies widely from plant to plant. Most wastewater treatment plants use primary treatment, which is the physical removal of both organic and inorganic solids. Of the 269 plants for which information is available, 56 per cent employ secondary treatment to remove solids and associated contaminants (Ministry for the Environment, 2005). Another 36 per cent have tertiary treatment (the final stage in treating wastewater), which typically involves the removal of substances such as nitrates and sometimes includes disinfection of the water.

About half of the 125 public wastewater treatment plants for which information is available discharge treated sewage into rivers and streams. About a quarter of them discharge into the sea (either long sea outfall or near shore outfall). The remainder discharge onto land or wetlands, estuaries, or into groundwater (see Figure 6.3).

Figure 6.3: Receiving environments for wastewater discharged from 125 treatment plants, 2007

Data source: Waste Information, 2007.

Text description of figure

Receiving environments for wastewater discharged from 125 treatment plants:

  • Long sea outfall 17%
  • Near shore outfall 5%
  • Lake 1%
  • River/stream 47%
  • Estuary 3%
  • Wetland 3%
  • Land 18%
  • Groundwater 6%

The Resource Management Act 1991 requires all wastewater treatment facilities to have consent to operate, and to meet relevant discharge standards for the receiving environment. As consents are renewed, the performance of each plant is reassessed. This process has significantly improved the standard of wastewater discharges around New Zealand, and is supported by best practice guidance for wastewater treatment.

More about trade waste bylaws

More than 89 per cent of local authorities have a trade waste bylaw. This enables them to set limits on discharges by industries and businesses to municipal wastewater. This helps protect reticulation and treatment systems, and the health and safety of workers, and ensures resource consent conditions are met. Many authorities use the Model Trade Waste Bylaw (NZS9201:23) as an example to develop their bylaws. Bylaws may also be used to regulate the pre-treatment of wastes at source, and to minimise the organic, nutrient, and contaminant levels in wastewater.

Sewage sludge

Each year in New Zealand, wastewater treatment plants generate 234,112 tonnes of sewage sludge. About 66 per cent of this is diverted from landfills to be reused in some way (Ministry for the Environment, 1997).

Detailed information on the generation of sewage sludge is available for 26 municipal treatment plants, which serve nearly 30 per cent of the population. These monitored plants divert an estimated 155,000 tonnes of wet and dry sewage sludge from landfills each year, which is reused in some way, as shown in Figure 6.4.

Most of the sewage sludge that the monitored plants divert is used to reclaim land (116,380 tonnes). Other uses include applying sludge to forested land as a fertiliser (600 tonnes), making compost (included in the 36,817 tonnes figure for ‘other beneficial reuse’), and pond storage (875 tonnes).

Figure 6.4: Sewage sludge from monitored treatment plants, 2006

Data source: Waste Information, 2007.

Text description of figure

Sewage sludge from monitored treatment plants:

  • Diverted to land reclamation 116,380 tonnes
  • Diverted to forest application 600 tonnes
  • Diverted to other beneficial reuse 36,817 tonnes
  • Diverted to pond 875 tonnes
  • Disposed of to landfill 79,440 tonnes

The diversion of sewage sludge from landfills is important because it reduces pressure on space in the landfills and extends their lifespan. A further advantage of this diversion is that less methane is generated. In some communities, sewage sludge can account for between 5 and 10 per cent of all waste sent to landfills.

Upgrades to wastewater treatment plants around New Zealand will result in greater quantities of sewage sludge being produced. For example, after a recent upgrade to the Mangere wastewater treatment plant in Auckland, the volume of solids removed from wastewater increased from 40,000 tonnes in the mid-1990s to 116,000 tonnes a year in 2005–2006 (Ministry for the Environment, 2007c). While a significant portion of these solids will be able to be reused, an increasing quantity will not, because it will have unacceptable contamination levels. This highlights the importance of reducing and pre-treating liquid waste (especially hazardous industrial waste) at source before it is disposed of through the wastewater system.

Hazardous substances

Hazardous substances are those that can cause damage to human health or the environment. They may be explosive, flammable, toxic, or corrosive, or accelerate the combustion of other materials. They may also be eco-toxic (toxic to the environment). Most hazardous substances have more than one hazardous property. For example, petrol is flammable, toxic, and eco-toxic.

Many of the chemicals we use in our daily lives are hazardous substances. These include common household chemicals (for example, bleaches), solvents, paints, adhesives, swimming pool chemicals, and petroleum products.

Hazardous substances can enter the environment in a variety of ways, for example, as a result of emissions from burning fossil fuels; as industrial and municipal wastewater discharges; as stormwater run-off; or as by-products of activities such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, chemical transport, or landfills.

Whatever the source and route into the environment, there is a risk that hazardous substances may be absorbed by humans and other living things. The most common ways that humans are exposed to hazardous substances are through inhalation, absorption through the skin, or ingestion.

Use of hazardous substances in industry

In the past, hazardous substances were commonly used in New Zealand’s agricultural, horticultural, mining, and forestry sectors. As an example, pesticides and other agrichemicals were widely used to increase the economic returns from farmed or cropped land. They were often used with little or no equipment to protect human health.

The use of agrichemicals continues today, but protective practices have improved, and the toxicity levels of many agrichemical products have been reduced. As a result, the levels of agrichemical residues in our food have dropped. A 2003–2004 survey of 100 New Zealand foods found that agrichemical residues were detectable in 50 per cent of the sampled foods, down from 59 per cent in a 1997–1998 survey. In both surveys, the levels of chemical residues detected were well within acceptable limits (New Zealand Food Safety Authority, 2006).

Hazardous substances are used extensively in a number of other sectors. Small and medium enterprises are estimated to make up more than 96 per cent of all businesses in New Zealand. Many of these businesses use, transport, store, or sell hazardous substances (for example, solvents, acids, and heavy metals).

Health effects of hazardous substances

The use of hazardous substances can affect our health. Approximately nine deaths and 773 hospitalisations occur each year as a result of short-term exposure to hazardous substances (Ministry for the Environment, 2007b), mostly as the result of accidents. It is estimated that long-term exposure to hazardous substances causes at least 400 premature deaths and a further 300 cancers each year in New Zealand (Driscoll et al, 2004).

In addition, more than 40 per cent of incidents involving hazardous substances result in some kind of environmental pollution (Environmental Risk Management Authority, 2006).

Regulatory controls

Given the need to protect both human health and the environment, New Zealand closely controls hazardous substances. The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 and associated regulations set rules for managing the risks linked with the manufacturing, use, storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous substances, including those used in the agricultural sector. These controls are in line with international commitments that New Zealand has made to manage hazardous substances (for example, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants).

Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996

Under this Act, the Environmental Risk Management Authority can impose controls on certain hazardous wastes to avoid risks to people and the environment. A key limitation is that wastes must also be hazardous substances under the Act (that is, they must meet the ‘minimum degrees of hazard’ as established in the Act).

The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (Approvals and Enforcement) Amendment Act 2005 established a ‘group standards’ mechanism to allow the Environmental Risk Management Authority to place controls on hazardous wastes (including manufactured articles and waste products). The controls can address the disposal, transport, tracking, and reporting of these wastes.

For more information on the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 see chapter 2, ‘Our environment and people’.

The Resource Management Act 1991 regulates the environmental effects of discharges, including waste disposal and the discharge of hazardous substances. These effects can be managed through resource consent conditions, rules in council plans, and national environmental standards. In this way, territorial authorities and regional councils can prevent or mitigate any adverse effects arising from the disposal of hazardous substances.

Hazardous waste

When hazardous substances reach the end of their useful life, they can become hazardous waste that requires careful handling and disposal. Hazardous waste can take a variety of forms – liquid, sludge, solid, and gas, and can be managed in a variety of ways, for example, at wastewater treatment plants or through the used oil recovery programme. Private sector waste operators play a key role in the treatment and disposal of hazardous waste.

A key issue in New Zealand is that most hazardous waste is mixed either at source or during its transport, treatment, or disposal. As a result, treatment and disposal is made more difficult and opportunities for hazardous waste to be recovered and recycled are reduced.

Information on hazardous waste is limited in New Zealand, because of a lack of formal record keeping and reporting on waste flows in the past. As well as this, a significant proportion of hazardous waste is handled by private waste operators, whose data is considered commercially sensitive.

The information available about hazardous waste primarily relates to specific waste streams, such as those for electronic equipment, agrichemicals, end-of-life vehicles (vehicles that have come to the end of their useful life), and waste oil.

Disposal of hazardous waste

By volume, most hazardous waste is discharged to the sewerage system, to be treated and disposed of in municipal wastewater treatment plants. A recent hazardous waste survey estimated that 72 per cent of the hazardous waste in the Bay of Plenty region, and 85 per cent in the Waikato region, was disposed of to sewers (Environment Bay of Plenty, 2004).

In 2004, solid hazardous waste was estimated to account for 11 per cent of the waste disposed of to landfills (Waste Not Consulting, 2006). About a quarter of this waste is rendered inert (stabilised) before disposal at waste treatment facilities.

Several major industries – for example, the mining industry – treat and dispose of hazardous waste independently.

Used oil is generated at a rate of 33 to 40 million litres in New Zealand each year (Slaughter et al, 2007). In 1997, 77 per cent of used oil was dumped to landfills, burned, poured onto roads to control dust, used to lubricate chainsaws and stain fences, or lost or discarded in various unknown ways (Ministry for the Environment, 1997). Today, the Used Oil Recovery Programme collects and reuses 21 million litres of used oil a year.

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (including products such as batteries, computers, cell phones, and televisions), and lighting appliances (such as fluorescent tubes), are disposed of to landfills in New Zealand every year at a rate of up to 80,000 tonnes (Ministry for the Environment, 2007c). Several schemes to reuse, recycle, or recover waste electrical and electronic goods have been introduced in New Zealand.

End-of-life vehicles can cause a waste problem even if they are sent to the scrap yard. Various hazardous substances, such as used oil, refrigerants, batteries, and circuit boards, must be removed from end-of-life vehicles for appropriate treatment or disposal. Approximately 25,000 cars are dumped illegally in New Zealand each year, at a cost to authorities of $6 million (Ministry for the Environment, 2007a).

Local action on hazardous waste

HazMobile

HazMobile is a mobile hazardous waste collection service run in the Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Hutt Valley, Waimakariri, and Tasman regions. It is a free service provided by councils so householders can safely dispose of their hazardous wastes.

HazMobile visits public areas on scheduled dates to collect household and garden chemicals, waste oil, poisons, batteries and paints, and other products that could potentially harm people and the environment, or contaminate land.

In the Bay of Plenty in 2007, the HazMobile collected more than 1,110 loads of hazardous waste. This included about 600 loads in Tauranga, close to 300 in Te Puke, 200 in Whakatāne, and almost 60 in Ōpōtiki. The volumes collected in 2007 were lower than in 2006. A large haul of 2,4,5-T was the highlight of the HazMobile’s Bay of Plenty visit in 2007.

Agrichemical wastes

Agrichemicals are chemicals commonly used to destroy insects, fungi, bacteria, pests, and weeds, and to regulate plant growth. They are toxic to both human health and the environment, and may remain in the environment for very long periods once they are released.

For more than a decade, local authorities have played a key role in collecting and safely disposing of banned and unwanted agrichemicals that have accumulated on farms and rural properties. From 2003, this collection has been enabled by the Agrichemicals Collection Programme, which is jointly funded by central and local government.

By June 2006, approximately 260 tonnes of agrichemicals had been collected through the programme. Of these, 228 tonnes were agrichemicals that cannot be safely treated or disposed of in New Zealand, and they have been exported for safe disposal.

Nine of New Zealand’s 16 regions are now considered to be free of agrichemical stockpiles (that is, there are estimated to be fewer than 5 tonnes of stockpiles remaining in each of those regions). The Agrichemicals Collection Programme has committed to removing a further 175 tonnes of unwanted agrichemicals from rural properties by June 2009.

260 tonnes of agrichemicals had been collected by June 2006 through the agrichemical collection programme.

Photo of a man collecting agrichemicals from a shed and loading it onto his ute.

Source: Ministry for the Environment.