New Zealand Rural Waste Minimisation Project

The pilot phase of the Rural Waste Minimisation Project (RWMP) was completed in May 2018 and the final report detailing project objectives and outcomes has now been released.

The RWMP was a three-year project to improve rural waste management practices across New Zealand. The project was led by Environment Canterbury in conjunction with the Ministry for the Environment, industry representatives, stakeholder groups and other regional councils. The project was delivered by True North Consulting and Cherry Red Consulting.

A key aspect of the project was the development of collaborative, practical, solution-focused options for managing rural waste. The focus was on encouraging long-term behaviour change by ensuring that there were convenient cost-effective services for farmers, rather than taking a regulatory approach.

The RWMP pilots included rural waste pop-up events delivered by Agrecovery in May 2018. Farmers were able to drop their wastes off at pop-up recycling events or have larger volumes of waste such as silage wrap, collected on farm by Plasback. Pilots took place in Matamata and Geraldine with assistance from the Matamata-Piako District Council and the Timaru District Council.

The one-stop shop model takes into account the needs and practices of busy farms. It provides flexibility for the farmer by offering different levels of service such as on-farm collection, fixed collection points and pop-up recovery events, depending on the amount of wastes farms have and whether the farmer is more focused on maximising convenience or minimising cost. The one-stop shop model minimises barriers to collection by taking an end-user, customer focused approach.

The project successes include:

  • Behaviour change whereby farmers engaged in increased recycling, recovery and appropriate disposal of waste streams,
  • Reduced burning and burying of waste and associated impacts to land, water, and air.
  • Increased engagement between industry, local government, community and partner organisations over rural waste management issues.

At the trials a total of 87 participants contributed approximately 19,100 kg of waste products including: 5,000kg of agrichemical containers and drums, 2,782 kg of unwanted agrichemicals, 5,342 kg of unwanted oil, 2,030 kg of fertiliser bags and 4,000 kg of silage wrap.

Feedback at the pilots showed 100 per cent support for the one-stop shop approach from participants.

Project background

Environment Canterbury undertook several studies in 2013 to gain an understanding of the quantities and types of waste generated on farms in the Canterbury region.

A cross-section of farm types (53 farms in total) were surveyed on the amounts of waste they produced each year and disposal methods. The survey identified more than 50 different types of wastes with farms producing nearly 10 tonnes of non-natural rural waste each year. The survey also confirmed that most farmers use burning, burial and bulk storage to manage the disposal of waste on farms.

The survey identified that the main barriers to effective rural waste minimisation are:

  • Legacy farmer behaviour; it was acceptable in the past to burn and bury waste.
  • Convenience; it is convenient to burn and bury wastes on farm in terms of time, cost, and effort required.
  • Lack of alternatives; there is a lack of widely available, low-cost practical alternatives to disposing of wastes on farm.

Further research showed that most farmers want to protect their legacy and want to use more sustainable ways to manage the disposal of farm waste.

Project phases

Phase One - Risk assessment and waste prioritisation - February 2015 – September 2015
Objectives of Phase One were to gain an understanding of the risks associated with the inappropriate disposal of waste and to identify priorities for further work.

Key risks identified were:

  • bioaccumulation/build up of contaminants in the ecosystem;
  • leaching of soil contamination into groundwater and nearby waterways;
  • quantities of wastes produced, particularly chemical wastes in dairy and horticultural activities; and
  • the release of toxic gases from burning of wastes.

A lack of waste minimisation options was also identified as a major barrier to improving waste minimisation in rural areas.

Phase One reports

Phase Two - Waste minimisation options and feasibility study - October 2015 – March 2017

The findings of phase one informed Phase Two, which was focused on identifying a robust suite of simple, cost‐effective options for farmers and growers to help improve rural waste minimisation.

Identifying solutions involved simplifying waste streams into three categories:

  • hazardous wastes such as agrichemicals and sharps;
  • high volume recyclables such as hard and soft plastics; and
  • low volume recyclables such as vehicle batteries and oil filters.

Waste streams were then split in terms of a strategic approach between low volume users and high volume users.

Going forward the broad strategy for high volume users is on-farm collection of waste.

For low volume users, the strategy is to provide a range of drop-off points for waste.

Phase Two reports

Phase Three - Options implementation and communication strategy - March 2017 – June 2018

This phase of works will establish and deliver a number of rural waste collection pilots developed through milestones 1-4. Pilot collection schemes will be supported by a dedicated communications program with a focus on the implementation of new approaches and driving behavioural change.

Target audience and project outcomes; Farmers and growers are supported by convenient and low cost disposal options for waste generated on farms and understand why current waste management practices may be inappropriate and how they can better manage and minimise their waste by adopting new practices.

Phase Three Reports

Project reports

Scoping studies and survey reports:

Final report

Farm surveys summary report and full report

Scoping studies

If you have questions about the New Zealand rural waste minimisation project, please contact Customer Services or email