It is estimated that in Aotearoa New Zealand we generate 17.49 million tonnes of waste per year, of which an estimated 12.59 million tonnes are sent to landfill.
This estimate includes waste disposed of to Classes 1, 2, 3 and 4 landfills, clean fills, and farm dumps (see Types of landfills for descriptions of landfill types). It also includes the materials recycled here in New Zealand and those sent offshore for recycling. (Source: Online Waste Levy System, and adapted from MfE, 2016 & MfE, 2014.)
Waste sent to Class 1 landfills (landfills that accept household waste) increased by 47 per cent from 2,499,571 tonnes in 2009/2010 to 3,682,419 tonnes in 2018/2019, with per capita waste increasing from 580kg to 740kg per annum.
While there was a slight decrease in waste to Class 1 landfills in 2019 and 2020, with the decrease in 2020 likely largely due to COVID-19, longer term trends suggest the rate of waste disposal is only increasing for many sites around the country.
Source: Online Waste Levy System
Surveys show that construction and demolition waste is the largest source of waste to Class 1 landfills at 33 per cent followed by potentially hazardous waste at 24 per cent and then organic waste at 15 per cent.
Source: Improvements to estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from Landfills Eunomia 2020
The composition of waste disposed of to Class 1 landfills has changed over time.
It is estimated that since 1950:
- food and garden waste to landfill has decreased from 28 per cent to 15 per cent
- paper has decreased from 16 per cent to 6 per cent
- timber waste has increased from 7 per cent to 12 per cent
- non-greenhouse gas emitting waste (inert waste) which includes plastics and other materials has increased from 45 per cent to 57 per cent.
There are various sources of data on the state of waste management in New Zealand, including occasional studies of the composition of landfills.
We are drawing on all available sources of data as we update the New Zealand Waste Strategy and work on other projects and we are commissioning more research.
Still, we acknowledge our data, research and evidence base for waste and resource efficiency needs improvement. We have a good understanding of how much waste goes to Class 1 (municipal) landfills and we have estimates of what that waste is. However, we have less data on the quantities and types of waste which go to Classes 2, 3 and 4 landfills, cleanfills and on waste disposed of on farm.
Improving data availability, accessibility and quality gives us a stronger base for developing and evaluating policy and interventions, understanding changes over time and monitoring compliance. It will also support innovation and technology changes to address many of the challenges around waste faced in Aotearoa New Zealand.
We have begun a programme of work to improve our waste data. On 20 May 2021, Cabinet agreed to additional mandatory reporting of waste data.
In summary, data requirements already in regulation or agreed include:
- tonnage reporting from:
- Class 1 landfills (already in place)
- construction and demolition fill sites (from 1 January 2022)
- other sites taking materials from earthworks etc (from 1 January 2023)
- industrial monofils (from 1 January 2023)
- transfer stations (from 1 January 2022)
- activity source reporting of waste (ie, what type of activity generated the waste - for instance, households, construction and demolition etc) (regulations are in development)
- additional reporting by territorial authorities.
For a summary of the data requirements already in regulation see Reporting requirements for waste disposal facility operators.