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What we throw away

Recycling bins and rubbish bags on the kerbside

On this page: Solid waste, sludges, what our region’s solid waste is made of, how much we are throwing away , what people are doing to reduce waste, the future

On average, each person in the Waikato region generates between 528 and 594 kg of household waste a year. If organic material was composted and paper, construction and demolition waste was recycled, the amount of waste would shrink substantially.

Solid waste

Solid waste is a mixture of many different materials from homes and industries. It can include:

Some of these materials, such as paper, glass and some metals, are suitable for recycling. Organic material can be composted. Hazardous substances will need to be specially managed and disposed of.


Sludges come from industrial and wastewater treatment processes. They include:

  • sewage sludge from oxidation ponds
  • flocculated sludge from water treatment plants
  • biosolids from processing industries (dairy factories, abattoirs, rendering plants and wool scourers)
  • oily waste from grease traps
  • chemical sludges from timber treatment operations.

Some sludges are hazardous (for example, chemical sludges and oily waste) and must be disposed of in specialised facilities in Auckland, possibly after treatment. In some situations, other waste sludges, such as biosolids, can be re-used as fertiliser substitutes.

What our region’s solid waste is made of

It is important to know what we are throwing away. The waste we put into a landfill affects the leachate and landfill gas made by that landfill. A breakdown of our waste composition lets us see whether we are using renewable or recyclable resources well.

It’s difficult and expensive to survey the amount and composition of waste in the region. Different types of surveys have been carried out in 1996 and 2001.

Graph showing composition of our Region's waste.

The rubbish bin shows an estimate of the average waste composition in our region from a 1996 survey.

The survey found that composition of waste varies significantly between communities. For example, the majority of waste going to landfills in Hauraki district was organic. In Hamilton, Waikato and Thames Coromandel districts, paper made up a greater proportion of the waste than in other districts.

At the time of the survey:

  • about 40 per cent by weight of the total waste going into the landfills surveyed was organic
  • 18 per cent was paper
  • 22 per cent was generated from construction and demolition sites.

If organic material was composted and paper, construction and demolition waste was reused or recycled, waste volumes could easily be halved.

How much we are throwing away

It is difficult to estimate the total amount of waste produced and disposed of in the region. This is because:

  • not all landfills have taken part in waste surveys
  • some landfills do not measure the amount of waste going into them
  • waste measurements have not always been consistent (some use weight while others use volume)
  • some waste is brought in to or taken out of the region for disposal
  • the type, location and operational standards of landfill sites are changing rapidly
  • some waste goes to private cleanfills that don’t collect data on the volume of waste they take.

A 1996 survey of the city and six district council areas measured about 151,000 tonnes of waste dumped. Of this, 90,000 tonnes went to the Horotiu landfill, which at that time received waste from Hamilton, Te Awamutu and the Thames-Coromandel district.

From this survey and population information we estimate that in 1996:

  • on average, each person in the Waikato region generated 528 kg of household waste

  • another 150,000 to 200,000 tonnes of waste came from businesses and commercial properties.

A survey of district councils in 2001 indicated that the amount of household waste generated per person may have increased slightly to 594 kg.

What people are doing to reduce waste

In 2000 Waikato Regional Council surveyed people living in the region to find out their views on various environmental issues. People told us that they are doing a range of activities that help the environment. Below are the activities that people are doing that help reduce waste:

  • Decide for environmental reasons to reuse something themselves instead of throwing it away - 55 per cent.
  • Compost their food and/or garden waste - 65 per cent.
  • Recycle bottles or cans or paper or plastic instead of throwing them away - 61 per cent.
  • Never put things into the gutters/stormwater drains, like oil or detergent - 97 per cent.
  • Rubbish and waste reduced or disposed of properly - 6 per cent.
  • Pick up rubbish and litter from public areas - 4 per cent.
  • Recycle various wastes such as used oil - 3 per cent.
  • Reduce chemical use - 3 per cent.
  • Tidy up or keep properties clean - 2 per cent.

In addition, 79 per cent said they would recycle more if there were convenient recycling facilities available and 72 per cent would dispose of things properly if they knew where to take them.

The future

In the future the amount of waste needing disposal in the Waikato region is likely to increase, due to:

  • an increase in the region’s population
  • more waste being brought in from other regions.

Waikato Regional Council has limited functions in terms of waste management. District and city councils have primary responsibility for waste minimisation and management.

In 2003 Waikato Regional Council released its Waste Management Strategy for the Waikato region. The strategy sets out how Waikato Regional Council can help the city and district councils and local communities achieve their waste minimisation goals.

Reducing waste will require:

  • less waste being produced
  • more accessible refuse transfer stations
  • more accessible recycling facilities
  • more accessible composting facilities.

More information

Find out more about how you can help to reduce waste and check out where your local recycling facilities are located.