New Zealand rural waste minimisation project

We are leading a three-year project to improve rural waste management practices across New Zealand in conjunction with the Ministry for the Environment, industry representatives, stakeholder groups and other regional councils.

A key aspect of the New Zealand rural waste minimisation project is the development of collaborative, practical, solution-focused options for managing rural waste. The focus is on encouraging long-term behaviour change rather than taking a regulatory approach.

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 waste issues,  including plastic, treated timber, hazardous waste, animal health products, seed/feed bags and tyres.

On average, farms were producing nearly 10 tonnes of non-natural rural waste each year in addition to domestic waste and animal remains.

The survey also confirmed that the majority of farmers use burning, burial and bulk storage to manage the disposal of waste on farms.

In 2014, the Waikato and Bay of Plenty Regional Councils replicated the surveys in their regions and received similar results in terms of waste types, quantities and disposal methods.

These studies demonstrated 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; and
  • lack of alternatives; there is a lack of widely available, low-cost practical alternatives to disposing of wastes on farm.

Further research shows 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 - December 2017

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

Click on the links below to see scoping studies and survey reports. Further project reports will be published as they are produced.

Scoping studies

Farm surveys summary report and full report

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