This publication is no longer current or has been superseded.
The Ministry’s existing national environmental reporting programme reports on the quantity and composition of solid waste to landfill.
The proposed new targets for the New Zealand Waste Strategy require the collection of new information. This section discusses how this information could be collected, and proposes regulations requiring landfill operators to collect compositional data on waste disposed of at landfills.
This section seeks feedback on the first steps we need to take to improve the availability of data – longer term data issues are dealt with under proposed targets 3, 4, 13 and 14 in Part 1 of this document.
We want your feedback on a proposal to require waste facility operators to report the tonnage of waste disposed of at landfill in broad compositional categories.
The Ministry for the Environment’s national-scale environmental reporting programme assesses the state of, and pressures on, New Zealand’s environment, with a view to tracking how these change over time. The programme relies on a core set of national environmental indicators to report on the overall health of the environment in a practical and cost effective way. The national indicator to report on waste in New Zealand is “solid waste disposed of to landfill”. This is measured using two variables:
the quantity (by weight) of solid waste disposed of to landfill
the composition of solid waste disposed of to landfill.
As discussed in the Background section and part 1 of this document, both the review of progress against the New Zealand Waste Strategy targets (MfE, 2007a) and the OECD review of New Zealand’s environmental performance (OECD, 2007) recommended improving and standardising waste data collection, monitoring and reporting. Currently, this national-scale information is based on voluntary surveys. We have survey figures for the total tonnage being disposed of to landfills that accept municipal waste. Some landfill operators give volume figures rather than weight, and many of the figures provided are estimates rather than measured quantities.
The Waste Minimisation Act 2008 requires the Ministry to review the effectiveness of the waste levy. Under the Act, from 1 July 2009, landfill operators will need to provide monthly returns of the tonnes of waste disposed of, based on measured weight or volume. We expect this information to be more accurate than the current voluntary surveys.
However, data on waste composition can be more expensive and difficult to obtain than data on the total tonnage of waste. Current national estimates of waste composition are based on a small number of surveys at selected sites. No comprehensive data is available on the composition of solid waste disposed of to landfills in New Zealand.
The current situation, where only information on the total volume being disposed of is collected, does not allow for effective waste management planning. Nor does it adequately enable monitoring of the effectiveness of waste policy. There are wide swings in the volume disposed of in some waste streams that mask trends in other important waste streams, such as household waste. A recent example in the Hutt Valley was the clean up of legacy contamination in Waiwhetu Stream, which led to a large volume of contaminated material being placed in the Silverstream landfill.
The lack of information on the composition of waste disposed of to landfills makes it difficult to review the effectiveness of the waste levy, difficult to monitor the effectiveness of policies aimed at particular waste streams, and difficult to establish priorities for future waste minimisation work.
The objective is to ensure that consistent data is available on the composition of the waste disposed at landfills.
There are options for gathering more detailed data, and the classifications used will affect the cost and practicality of collecting the information.
The first option is to encourage landfill operators to voluntarily supply information. This option would have low or zero costs for operators, but provides no benefits. Participation is expected to be low. As consistency is critical, voluntary options are not favoured.
The second option is to require landfill operators to undertake regular, detailed, surveys of waste disposed of. Each survey would cost of the order of $10,000, and even if only the largest 20 landfills provided this data quarterly, the cost would be around $800,000 per year. This option would provide consistent, detailed compositional information, but at a very high cost to landfill operators. Undertaking these detailed surveys in accordance with the Solid Waste Analysis Protocol requires a high level of technical expertise. It is doubtful that there would be sufficient qualified people available to undertake large numbers of detailed surveys.
The Ministry proposes to complement waste levy data collection (tonnage disposed of) with consistent high level data on the composition of waste disposed of at landfills. We propose regulations requiring landfill operators to collect information on waste using a nationally consistent set of waste categories. This data will be aggregated by the waste facility operator and the total tonnage figures will be supplied to the Ministry on a monthly basis.
The classifications proposed categories are:
cover (with type of cover specified)
special (with type of special waste specified)
construction and demolition
commercial land industrial
We are still refining the categories to ensure the classifications fit with those used by landfills so the collection costs can be kept to a minimum. Landfill operators may be able to supply this information from their existing records as this type of information relates to whole loads arriving at the facility from different customers. Some landfill operators have indicated they will be able to supply this information easily at low cost. Other operators will need to collect or process records differently, and estimate costs ranging from $500 to $2,000 per month. Some landfills do not have weighbridges, and have indicated a weighbridge may be required to collect this data, at a one-off cost of around $80,000. We will obtain more information on costs from landfill operators to inform a full assessment of the costs and benefits.
In some landfills, waste materials, such as scrap metal, composting material and plastics, are sorted and recovered from the site. In these cases, data on these will need to be collected to ensure that these materials are not included in totals of materials disposed of. Data on sorted material will be classified by type of material, such as metal, plastic and paper.
The Ministry is undertaking trial data collection in conjunction with the operators at 11 waste disposal facilities to ensure that the classifications are clear and that the data can be collected efficiently. Information from the trial data collection, and your feedback, will be used to design the regulations requiring the collection of waste composition information.
The composition data will be complemented with more detailed information gathered from additional landfill sampling. This more intensive sampling will be commissioned by the Ministry and will involve some landfills in cooperative studies. When combined with the data provided by waste facility operators, this should build up more accurate national waste composition information. This will improve the information base for managing and minimising waste at a moderate cost to landfill operators.
Improved compositional data will help implement the New Zealand Waste Strategy and improve the targeting of waste policy and planning. More detailed information on organic waste will also assist in reporting on New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions (which is a requirement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Agreement).
New Zealand’s 52 landfill operators will be affected by the proposal as they will be required to make the returns. The categories for reporting waste have been selected to mirror the waste classification systems used by the majority of landfills in order to minimise the costs to landfill operators. We will prepare an assessment of the costs and benefits as proposals are finalised, and are seeking feedback on what these might be.
If we decide to proceed with regulations to require high level data collection, we will:
consult further with landfill operators on the costs and feasibility of collecting this information
assess the costs and benefits of the proposal
seek Cabinet approval to proceed with the regulations
draft regulations and seek final Cabinet approval
produce guidance material on the information collection requirements.
Use the following questions to guide your feedback on our proposals for monitoring the composition of waste disposed of to landfills in New Zealand. You do not have to answer every question.
Do you consider that waste facility operators should be required to supply data on the composition of waste disposed of at landfills?
If so, are the waste classifications proposed the right ones?
What are the practical implications of gathering this compositional data?
Do you think it will impose additional costs on landfill operators, what will those costs be, and do you think they are reasonable?