Waste Minimisation

New Zealand: Discrepancies in waste data calculation skewer figures

A roundup of New Zealand’s council waste data proves that establishing major waste perpetrators by area is difficult.

A roundup of New Zealand’s council waste data proves that establishing major waste perpetrators by area is difficult.

District councils across the country gave varying answers when asked how much waste is generated per person per year.

While Timaru reported 1638 kg, Otorohanga set the target of annual waste generation at 8 kg. Cities generally produced more waste, due to construction, industry and manufacturing efforts being concentrated there.

Figures, calculated by some councils by dividing the total waste to landfill ratio by the individual district’s population, were not compiled by some councils all together.

Councils with high figures-such as Waitomo district council-revised their tallies, the previously mentioned council stating that out-of-district recycling had inflated its numbers mistakenly. Waitomo arrived at 382 kg of waste rather than its former sum total of 1152 kg per person, using this method of calculation.

Hamilton City Council and Otorohanga only mentioned kerbside collections, omitting a large proportion of total waste generated, whilst Dunedin City Council brought down its total waste amount from 750 to 640 kg by subtracting special hazardous waste from the tally.

Rural areas such as Waikato district took no account of the disposal of farm waste, thereby losing track of 164 844 kg worth of waste sent to landfill or disposed of via incineration or burial.

Mega wasters such as Queenstown-Lakes, an area which proved comparatively thorough in its waste statistics, however, cannot universally be held to account for the problem. Responsible for sending a record 1056 kg of waste to landfill per person, the lake district saw its figures skewered in 2018 due to increased tourism. Tourists to the region outnumber residents by one to three.

The Auckland region, at 894 kg of waste per person, also counts as one of New Zealand’s most wasteful areas. So far, the local council has failed in delivering on its target of producing zero waste by 2040.

Waste Solutions Manager Parul Sood said that councils alone could not slash waste in New Zealand.

“You have to have the producers of products, you have to have you and I who use the products, on the journey with us. We also need government to actually make some substantial changes to make that shift”, he argued.

New Zealand’s Environmental Ministry is currently working on an environmental strategy to address its waste problem.

Solutions proposed by waste experts range from bans on non-recyclable plastic packaging, support for material recovery and more ambitious, time-limited waste minimisation targets for the food, green, construction, demolition as well as e-waste sector.