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2. How to interpret the Definition of Hazardous Waste

According to the definition of Hazardous Waste, hazardous waste is any waste that:

  • Contains hazardous substances at sufficient concentrations to exceed the minimum degrees of hazard specified by Hazardous Substances (Minimum Degrees of Hazard) Regulations 2001 under the Hazardous Substances and New Organism Act 1996, or
  • Meets the definition for infectious substances included in the Land Transport Rule: Dangerous Goods 2005 and NZ Standard 5433: 2007 - Transport of Dangerous Goods on Land, or
  • Meets the definition for radioactive material included in the Radiation Protection Act 1965 and Regulations 1982.

Minimum Degrees of Hazard

Once a material has been defined as a waste (see How to tell if a material is a waste), there must be technical criteria to determine if it is a hazardous waste.

The hazardous characteristics that form the basis for these criteria are:

  • Explosiveness
  • Flammability
  • Capacity to oxidise
  • Toxicity
  • Corrosiveness
  • Eco-toxicity
  • Infectiousness
  • Radioactivity

A waste is not defined as hazardous unless it contains hazardous substances at sufficient concentrations to exceed thresholds for at least 1 of the hazardous characteristics listed above. In addition, a waste is hazardous if, upon contact with air or water, it generates a substance (e.g. leachate, gas) that exhibits any of the hazardous characteristics.

Detailed information on the thresholds for each hazard characteristic (not including infectiousness and radioactivity), and acceptable testing methods can be found in Thresholds and Classifications Under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (2012) [PDF 4.61 MB] [Environmental Protection Authority website]. Information on the infectious and radioactive characteristics is outlined below.

Infectious Characteristics

Infectious wastes are wastes that meet the definition for "infectious substance" in the Land Transport Rule: Dangerous Goods 2005 and New Zealand Standard 5433: 2007 - Transport of Dangerous Goods on Land:

"Substances known, or reasonably expected, to contain pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, rickettsia, parasites, fungi or recombinant micro-organisms (hybrid or mutant) that are known, or reasonably expected, to cause infectious disease in humans and animals that are exposed to them."

According to section 2.17 of NZS 5433: 2007, infectious wastes shall be identified by inclusion of the word "waste" in the Proper Shipping Name of the substance e.g. waste infectious substances, affecting humans (UN No 2814).

Radioactive Characteristics

According to the Radiation Protection Act 1965, radioactive material means any article containing a radioactive substance giving it a specific radioactivity exceeding 100 kilobecquerels per kilogram and a total radioactivity exceeding 3 kilobecquerels. Radioactive substance means a radionuclide or mixture of radionuclides, either alone or in chemical combination with other elements.

Guidance on identifying radioactive wastes can be found on the web page Radiation safety [Ministry for Health website].