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Chapter 8: Waste

8.1 Sector overview

The waste sector totalled 1,754.48 Gg CO2 equivalent in 2003 and represented 2.3% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions in 2003 are now 29.2% below the 1990 baseline value of 2,480.06 Gg CO2 equivalent (Figure 8.1.1). The reduction has occurred in the 'solid waste disposal on land' category, which has decreased by 34.5% as a result of initiatives to improve solid waste management practices in New Zealand.

Figure 8.1.1 Waste sector emissions from 1990 to 2003


Year Gg CO2 equivalent
1990 2,480.06
1991 2,505.89
1992 2,155.56
1993 2,153.04
1994 2,057.07
1995 2,058.70
1996 2,014.18
1997 1,819.72
1998 1,812.95
1999 1,784.60
2000 1,717.40
2001 1,719.87
2002 1,729.32
2003 1,754.48

Emissions from the waste sector are calculated in three components (Figure 8.1.2): solid waste disposal on land, wastewater handling and waste incineration (not shown in figure as emissions are negligible and not estimated). CH4 from solid waste disposal was identified as a key category for New Zealand in 2003 (Tables 1.5.2 and 1.5.3).

Figure 8.1.2 Waste sector emissions in 2003 (all figures Gg CO2 equivalent)


Category Gg CO2 equivalent Percent of total
Solid Waste Disposal on Land 1425.48 81.2
Wastewater Handling 329.00 18.8

Disposal and treatment of industrial and municipal waste can produce emissions of CO2, CH4, and NMVOC. The CO2 is produced from the decomposition of organic material, however these emissions are not included as a net emission as the CO2 is considered to be reabsorbed in the following year. The most important gas is the CH4 produced as a by-product of anaerobic decomposition.

8.2 Solid waste disposal on land (CRF 6A)

8.2.1 Description

Organic waste in solid waste disposal sites (SWDS) is broken down by bacterial action in a series of stages that result in the formation of CO2 and CH4. The amount of gas produced depends on a number of factors including the waste disposal practices (managed versus unmanaged landfills), the composition of the waste, and physical factors such as the moisture content and temperature of the SWDS. The CH4 produced can go directly into the atmosphere via venting or leakage, or it may be flared off and converted to CO2.

In New Zealand, managing solid wastes has traditionally meant disposing of them in landfills. In 1995, a National Landfill Census showed there were 327 legally operating landfills or SWDS in New Zealand that accepted approximately 3,180,000 tonnes of solid waste (MfE, 1997). Since that time there have been a number of initiatives to improve solid waste management practices in New Zealand. These have included preparing guidelines for the development and operation of landfills, closure and management of landfill sites, and consent conditions for landfills under the Resource Management Act. As a result of these initiatives, a number of poorly located and substandard landfills have been closed and communities increasingly rely on modern regional disposal facilities for disposal of their solid waste. The 2002 Landfill Review and Audit discovered that there were 115 legally operating landfills in New Zealand - a reduction of 65% from 1995.

Recently, the national focus has been towards waste minimization and resource recovery. In March 2002, the Government announced its New Zealand Waste Strategy (MfE, 2002). The strategy sets targets for a range of waste streams as well as improving landfill practices by the year 2010. As part of the implementation and monitoring of the strategy, the Government developed the Solid Waste Analysis Protocol (MfE, 2002) that provided a classification system, sampling regimes and survey procedures to measure the composition of solid waste streams.

8.2.2 Methodological issues

New Zealand has used both the IPCC Tier 1 and Tier 2 methods to calculate emissions from solid waste. The data reported in the CRF follow the IPCC Tier 2, first order decay methodology (IPCC, 2000). New Zealand uses country specific values for the degradable organic carbon factor (DOC), methane generation potential (Lo), and a methane generation rate constant (k) based on conditions at New Zealand landfills. The IPCC default oxidation correction factor of 0.1 is used (IPCC, 2000). Worksheets showing the waste sector calculations are included in Annex 8.6.

Data on municipal solid waste (MSW) generation rates, waste composition, the fraction of degradable organic carbon (DOC) and the percentage of MSW disposed to SWDS are obtained from the National Waste Data Report (MfE, 1997), the Landfill Review and Audit (MfE, 2002) and the Solid Waste Analysis Protocol Baseline surveys (SWAP; MfE, 2003) for the periods 1995, 2002 and 2003. The proportion of waste for each type of SWDS is obtained from the 2003 SWAP baseline results. It is estimated that in 1995, 90% of New Zealand's waste was disposed to managed SWDS and 10% to uncategorised sites (MfE, 1997) [The 10% of solid waste not disposed to 'managed' SWDS, went to sites that fell outside the definition of 'managed', yet insufficient information is held about the sites to classify them as deep or shallow unmanaged SWDS, hence the 'unclassified' status. The inventory assumes that by 2010 all solid waste will be disposed to 'managed' SWDS, which has lead to a linearly increasing Methane Correction Factor in Localculations.]. The IPCC (1996) default values are used for the carbon content of the various components. Calculation of the methane generation potential is also based on the New Zealand waste statistics.

Based on the 2002 Landfill Review and Audit and using the SWAP classification system, it is estimated that the quantity of solid waste landfilled in New Zealand in 2003 was 2.09 kg per person per day. This shows a reduction in waste generation from 2.39 kg per person per day in 1995.

A methane generation rate constant of 0.06 was selected for New Zealand's landfills. International measurements support a methane generation rate constant in the range of 0.03 to 0.2 (IPCC, 2000). The 0.03 represents a slow decay rate in dry sites and slowly degradable waste, whereas the 0.2 value represents high moisture conditions and highly degradable waste. The IPCC recommended value is 0.05 (IPCC, 2000). The relatively wet conditions in most regions of New Zealand mean that the methane generation rate constant is likely to be slightly above the 0.05 default value. This was confirmed by a comparison of CH4 generation and recovery estimates to actual recovery rates at a limited number of SWDS in New Zealand (SCS Wetherill Environmental, 2002).

The fraction of DOC that actually degrades (0.5) and the methane oxidation factor (0.1) are drawn from the Topical Workshop on Carbon Conversion and Methane Oxidation in Solid Waste Disposal Sites, held by the IPCC Phase II Expert Group on Waste on 25 October 1996. The workshop was attended by 20 international experts with knowledge of the fraction of degradable organic carbon that is converted to CH4 and/or the oxidation of CH4 by microbes in the soil cover. These figures are consistent with good practice (IPCC, 2000).

The recovered CH4 rate per year was estimated based on information from a previous survey of SWDS that serve populations of over 20,000 in New Zealand. The survey information was updated based on local knowledge and experience (SCS Wetherill Environmental, 2002).

8.2.3 Uncertainties and time-series consistency

The overall estimated level of uncertainty is estimated at ±20 percent, which is an improvement from previously reported uncertainties. The improvement is due to the sampling and survey guidelines from the Solid Waste Analysis Protocol and the 2002 Landfill Audit and Review. Due to the unknown level of uncertainty associated with the accuracy of some of the input data, it has not been possible to perform a statistical analysis to determine uncertainty levels. Uncertainty in the data is primarily from uncertainty in waste statistics based on the 1997 National Waste Data Report (total solid waste disposed to landfills and the recovered methane rate).

The New Zealand waste composition categories from the Solid Waste Analysis Protocol do not exactly match the categories required for the IPCC DOC calculation. The major difference is that in New Zealand's DOC calculation, the putrescibles category includes food waste as well as garden waste. A separation into the IPCC categories was not feasible given the available data in the Solid Waste Analysis Protocol baseline report. The effect of this difference is mediated by the use of IPCC default carbon contents which are similar for the non-food (17% carbon content) and food categories (15% carbon content).

8.2.4 Source-specific QA/QC and verification

The Tier 1 and Tier 2 approaches have been used for solid waste emission estimates and the gross CH4 results compared, as recommended from the technical review of New Zealand's greenhouse gas inventory conducted in May 2001. For the 2003 inventory, the Tier 2 value of gross annual CH4 generation is 125.6 Gg CH4 and the Tier 1 value is 129.8 Gg CH4. The assumptions used to calculate net CH4 emissions from gross CH4 are the same for both tiers.

CH4 from solid waste disposal was identified as a key category for New Zealand in 2002. In preparation of the 2003 inventory, the data underwent Tier 1 QC procedures (refer Annex 6 for examples).

8.2.5. Source-specific recalculations

There have been several changes introduced to the methodology for estimating greenhouse gas emissions in the solid waste disposal on land sector for this inventory. The publishing of the 2002 Landfill Review and Audit and the 2003 SWAP baseline results presented an opportunity to recalculate total solid waste sent to landfills and the composition of that stream from 1995 to 2003.

Total solid waste sent to landfill was reported in 1995 and 2002. The intervening years and 2003 were given linearly equivalent totals. Recalculations based on changed total solid waste were carried out back to 1995.

The solid waste stream composition in 1995 was redefined using the 2002 SWAP classifications to enable methodological consistency. The major difference between waste type data in 1995 and that of the 2002 SWAP is the reduction in the quantity of the solid waste stream classified as organic (reclassified as 'putrescibles') in 1995 from 36% to 28.2%. There was a corresponding increase in construction and demolition non-wood (reclassified as 'rubble/concrete'). This change is mostly due to soil moving from the organic waste category to rubble/concrete.

Recalculations were performed back to 1990 as a result of the reclassifications, resulting in a lower Lo(x) than in previous reports, and a reduced 1990 baseline.

8.2.6 Source-specific planned improvements

New Zealand will consider reviewing the data and assumptions used for calculations in the solid waste disposal on land category during the 2005 calendar year. In particular, estimates of recovered CH4 from solid waste disposal sites may be improved. Updated information will be included in New Zealand's next submission.

8.3 Wastewater handling (CRF 6B)

8.3.1 Description

Wastewater from virtually all towns in New Zealand with a population over 1,000 people is collected and treated in community wastewater treatment plants. There are approximately 317 municipal wastewater treatment plants in New Zealand and around 50 government or privately owned treatment plants serving more than 100 people.

While most of the treatment processes are aerobic and therefore produce no CH4, there are a significant number of plants that use partially anaerobic processes such as oxidation ponds or septic tanks. Small communities and individual rural dwellings are generally served by simple septic tanks followed by ground soakage trenches.

Very large quantities of high-strength industrial wastewater are produced by New Zealand's primary industries. Most of the treatment uses aerobic treatment and any CH4 from anaerobic treatment is flared. There are however a number of anaerobic ponds that do not have CH4 collection, particularly serving the meat processing industry. These are the major sources of industrial wastewater CH4 in New Zealand.

8.3.2 Methodological issues

Methane emissions from domestic wastewater treatment

CH4 emissions from domestic wastewater handling have been calculated using a refinement of the IPCC methodology (IPCC, 1996). A population has been assessed for each municipal treatment plant in New Zealand. Where industrial wastewater flows to a municipal wastewater treatment plant, an equivalent population for that industry has been calculated based on a BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) loading of 70g per person per day.

Populations not served by municipal wastewater treatment plants have been estimated and their type of wastewater treatment assessed. The plants have been assigned to one of nine typical treatment processes. A characteristic emissions factor for each treatment is calculated from the proportion of BOD to the plant that is anaerobically degraded multiplied by the CH4 conversion factor. The emissions calculations are shown in Annex 8.6.

It is good practice to use country-specific data for the maximum CH4 producing capacity factor (Bo). Where no data are available, the 1996 IPCC methodology recommends using Bo of 0.25 CH4 / kg COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) or 0.6 kg CH4 / kg BOD. The IPCC BOD value is based on a 2.5 scaling factor of COD (IPCC, 2001). New Zealand uses a Bo of 0.25 CH4 / kg COD but calculates a country-specific value of 0.375 kg CH4 / kg BOD, based on a scaling-up factor of 1.5*COD. The New Zealand scaling factor is based on information from New Zealand waste sector experts (SCS Wetherill Environmental, 2002) and research (Metcalf and Eddy, 1992).

Methane emissions from industrial wastewater treatment

The IPCC default methodology is also used to calculate emissions from industrial wastewater treatment. For each industry, an estimate is made of the total industrial output in tonnes per year, the average COD load going to the treatment plant and the proportion of waste degraded anaerobically (refer to the accompanying worksheets). CH4 is only emitted from wastewater being treated by anaerobic processes. Industrial wastewater that is discharged into a sewer with no anaerobic pre-treatment is included in the domestic wastewater section of the inventory.

Methane emissions from sludge

The organic solids produced from wastewater treatment are known as sludge. In New Zealand, the sludge from wastewater treatment plants is typically landfilled. Any CH4 emissions from landfilled sludge are reported under the SWDS category. Other sources of emissions from sludge are discussed below.

In large treatment plants in New Zealand, sludge is handled anaerobically and the CH4 is almost always flared or used [An exception is the Christchurch sewage treatment plant that uses anaerobic lagoons for sludge treatment. Based on volatile solids reduction measurements in the lagoons, it is estimated that year 2001 CH4production of 0.46 Gg/year plus an additional 0.16 Gg/year from unburned CH4from the digester-gas fuelled engines.]. Smaller plants generally use aerobic handling processes such as aerobic consolidation tanks, filter presses and drying beds.

Oxidation ponds accumulate sludge on the pond floor. In New Zealand, these are typically only desludged every 20 years. The sludge produced is well stabilised with an average age of approximately 10 years. It has a low biodegradable organic content and is considered unlikely to be a significant source of CH4 (SCS Wetherill Environmental, 2002).

Sludge from septic tank clean-out, known as septage, is often removed to the nearest municipal treatment plant. In those cases, it is included in the CH4 emissions from domestic wastewater treatment. Where sludge is landfilled, the CH4 production is included under solid waste disposal. There are a small number of treatment lagoons specifically treating septage. These lagoons are likely to produce a small amount of CH4 and their effect is included in the calculations.

Nitrous oxide emissions from domestic wastewater treatment

New Zealand's calculation uses a modification of the IPCC methodology (IPCC, 1996). The IPCC method calculates nitrogen production based on the average per capita protein intake. However, in New Zealand, raw sewage nitrogen data are available for many treatment plants. The raw sewage nitrogen are used to calculate a per capita domestic nitrogen production of 13 g/day and a per capita wastewater nitrogen figure of 4.75 kg/person/year. The IPCC default method uses an emissions factor (EF6) to calculate the proportion of raw sewage nitrogen converted to N2O. New Zealand uses the IPCC default value of 0.01 kg N2O-N /kg sewage N (Annex 8.6).

Nitrous oxide emissions from industrial wastewater treatment

The IPCC does not offer a methodology for estimating N2O emissions from industrial wastewater handling. Emissions are calculated using an emissions factor (kg N2O-N / kg wastewater N) to give the proportion of total nitrogen in the wastewater converted to N2O. The total nitrogen was calculated by adopting the COD load from the CH4 emissions calculations and using a ratio of COD to nitrogen in the wastewater for each industry (Annex 8.6)

8.3.3 Uncertainties and time-series consistency

Methane from domestic wastewater

It is not possible to perform rigorous statistical analyses to determine uncertainty levels because of biases in the collection methods (SCS Wetherill Environmental, 2002). The uncertainty reported for all wastewater figures is based on an assessment of the reliability of the data and the potential for important sources to have been missed from the data. It is estimated that domestic wastewater CH4 emissions have an accuracy of -40% to +60% (SCS Wetherill Environmental, 2002).

Methane from industrial wastewater

The method used in estimating CH4 emissions limits a statistical analysis of uncertainty.

Total CH4 production from industrial wastewater has an estimated accuracy of ± 40% based on assessed levels of uncertainty in the input data (SCS Wetherill Environmental, 2002).

Nitrous oxide from wastewater

There are very large uncertainties associated with N2O emissions and no attempt has been made to quantify this uncertainty. The IPCC default emissions factor, EF6, has an uncertainty of -80% to +1,200% (IPCC, 1996) meaning that the estimates have only an order of magnitude accuracy.

8.3.4 Source-specific QA/QC and verification

In preparation of the 2003 inventory, the data for the wastewater handling category (CH4) underwent Tier 1 QC checks.

8.3.5 Source-specific recalculations

There have ben no recalculations in the 2003 inventory. The major change was in the 2000 inventory, where the calculations for CH4 emissions from industrial wastewater handling were changed to COD from BOD. This change was because COD is the preferred IPCC measure (IPCC, 1996) and reliable COD measurements were available from the meat industry - the largest source of industrial wastewater CH4 emissions.

8.4 Waste incineration (CRF 6C)

8.4.1 Description

New Zealand has not estimated emissions from waste incineration as they are considered to be negligible. Most regional and territorial councils have banned the open burning of waste and there is no incineration of municipal waste in New Zealand. The only incineration is for small specific waste streams including medical waste (five incinerators), veterinary and laboratory waste (six incinerators), quarantine waste (three incinerators) and hazardous waste (two incinerators). Resource consents control certain non-greenhouse gas emissions from these incinerators. As the quantity of material being disposed through these incinerators is not required to be measured under resource consents, it is not possible to estimate the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions being released.

In 2004, New Zealand introduced national environmental standards for air quality. The standards require all existing low temperature waste incinerators in schools and hospitals to obtain a resource consent (authorisation to operate) by 2006, irrespective of existing planning rules. Such incinerators without consents will be prohibited. The MfE is working with the Ministries of Education and Health to encourage other forms of waste disposal in schools and hospitals.