What happens to our waste
Within our region much of our waste is put into landfills. In the past there have been problems with old, poorly managed landfills contaminating waterways and producing dangerous landfill gases. Modern landfills are better managed with greater emphasis on avoiding environmental effects.
In the Waikato region much of our solid waste is disposed of in landfills or cleanfills. Solid waste and sludges are also:
- re-used as soil conditioners or fertiliser substitutes
- incinerated at special facilities such as hospital incinerators and co-generation plants using wood waste as fuel
- kept in long term storage or managed on site (for example, potentially acid-producing wastes from the mining industry).
In addition, some waste is:
- taken out of the region for treatment or disposal elsewhere (for example, hazardous waste).
- stored and stockpiled if they cannot be safely disposed of in New Zealand (for example, some hazardous waste).
As well as these legal methods, some solid waste is illegally dumped, for example, in areas where a resource consent has not been granted, or ends up as litter.
There are no commercial waste incinerators operating in the region. Waste incineration is a viable alternative to using landfills, but it can also have adverse effects on the environment.
When some waste is incinerated it gives off ‘greenhouse gases’ (such as carbon dioxide) and toxic substances (such as arsenic, mercury and dioxins). These emissions can be managed by special air pollution control equipment.
Any new waste incinerator in the region must first get a resource consent from Waikato Regional Council and the relevant district council. These consents set management standards to help protect the environment.
In the past there have been some unsatisfactory disposal sites in the region, but these have been closed or upgraded. In the Waikato region, all open and most closed landfills must have resource consents from Waikato Regional Council. These consents set management standards including:
- discharge controls
- requirements for sealing and rehabilitation of closed sites
- monitoring - for example, ground and surface water, leachate, types of waste.
These consents require that new landfills must use modern technology and management techniques to protect the environment. .