Rural Waste Minimisation

Environment Canterbury, in conjunction with the Ministry for the Environment, other regional councils and stakeholder groups, is currently undertaking a three year project to improve rural waste management practices across New Zealand.

Project Background

In 2013 we undertook several studies to help gain an understanding of the quantities and types of waste being generated on farms in the Canterbury region. Fifty three farms, over a cross section of farm types, were surveyed to gather data on the amount of waste produced each year, and how that waste was being disposed.

The surveys identified over 50 different waste streams including things like 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 surveys also confirmed that the majority of farmers use burning, burial and bulk storage to manage disposal of waste on farms.

In 2014, 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.

The 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.
  • 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 disposal of farm waste.

Current Project

In order to address these issues, Environment Canterbury is leading a multi-phase project to find and implement solutions to promote waste minimisation within the rural sector. A key driver for the project is the development of collaborative, practical, solution-focussed options for managing sustainable rural waste. The project focus is on encouraging long term behaviour change rather than taking a regulatory approach. Industry representatives from across the sector and across New Zealand are involved in project delivery.

The project will be delivered across three project phases:

1. Risk assessment and waste prioritisation (February 2015 - September 2015)
2. Waste minimisation options and feasibility study (October 2015 - March 2017)
3. Options implementation and communication strategy (March 2017 - December 2017)

Phase one - Risk Assessment and waste prioritisation
The key objectives of phase one were to gain an understanding of the risks associated with inappropriate disposal of waste and identification of priorities for further work.

The 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;
  • Release of toxic gases from burning of wastes.

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

Phase two - Waste minimisation options and feasibility

The findings of phase one helped to inform the second phase which focuses on identifying a robust suite of simple, cost‐effective options for farmers and growers to help improve rural waste minimisation.

Identified options and solutions are based on simplifying waste streams into 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). These streams were then split in terms of strategic approach between Low Volume Users and High Volume Users. Under the model the broad strategy for high volume users is on farm collection, and for low volume users the strategy is the provision of a range of drop-off points for waste.

Phase three - Options implementation and communication strategy
The focus of this phase will be on ensuring identified options are implemented and that farmers and growers understand why current waste management practices are inappropriate and how they can better manage and minimise their waste. This phase will start a behaviour change process.

 Completed reports can be viewed here:

Scoping studies

Farm surveys summary report and full report

Phase 1 Risk Assessment and Waste Prioritisation

Phase 2 Waste minimisation options and feasibility study

Further project reports will be published as they are produced.

If you have questions about this project, please contact Customer Services on 0800 324 636 (0800 EC INFO) or email