Ensuring that waste is managed and disposed of responsibly

Set of wheelie bins - green for organics, red for rubbish and yellow for recycling.Waste disposal takes many forms including direct discharge to land or water, and sludge disposal. Such wastes need to be managed in such a way that the adverse effects are minimised to protect the environment and human health.

Community and Public Health works with local and regional councils to ensure that both solid and liquid waste is disposed of in healthy manner to prevent:

  • chemicals and pathogens contaminating drinking water;
  • contamination of soil by heavy metals from industrial processes and surface runoff;
  • creating favourable environments for disease-causing bacteria and viruses including bioaerosols;
  • unpleasant or harmful odour problems; and
  • unfavourable effects on Māori cultural values since they place high value on their land and water.

The Medical Officer of Health and Health Protection Officers have specific powers under the Waste Management and Minimisation Act 2008:

  • Councils are legally required to consult with the Medical Officer of Health when preparing a Waste Management and Minimisation plan (Section 51); and
  • Health Protection Officers have powers to serve notice on a Council to abate a waste nuisance (Section 55).

Waste reduction is something where we can all make a tangible difference – whether it is reducing single use plastic, recycling materials we use and using less disposable materials that end up in landfills.

Waste free future: Reduce, reuse and recycle. Source: Ministry for the Environment.

Dealing with liquid waste products

The primary sources for liquid waste are:

  • septic tanks from residential properties,
  • reticulated wastewater systems including Wastewater Treatment Plants; and
  • disposal of oils, fats and sludge from Offensive Trades such as fish cleaning, rubbish collecting and stock yards.

Download an information sheet on the impact of urban waste pollution on local waterways, including stormwater and sewage overflows [237KB PDF].

Dealing with solid waste including recycling

The primary sources of solid waste are domestic, commercial and industrial waste from processes and packaging, demolition material and organic materials.

Rubbish collection and disposal is primarily the responsibility of district and regional councils under the Local Government Act 2002 and the Resource Management Act 1991.



Contact your local office for further information:

Ph: +64 3 364 1777

Ph: +64 3 687 2600

Ph: +64 3 768 1160

Government takes action on problem plastics

The Government is phasing out plastics in three stages.

The second phase on problematic plastics took effect on 1st July 2023, and bans:

  • Single-use plastic produce bags. The ones you put your fruit and vegetables in at the supermarket – will become a thing of the past.
  • Single-use plastic drinking straws. Only disabled people and those with health needs will be able to access them.
  • Single-use plastic tableware and cutlery. This means those single-use plastic plates and cutlery you get at parties will be replaced by reusable or non-plastic alternatives.
  • Plastic produce labels: The ones you find on apples and other fruit and vegetables will start to change. This is as industry works towards a home compostable version.

Items that were banned in Phase 1 from 1st October 2022 were:

  • Single-use plastic drink stirrers;
  • Single-use plastic cotton buds;
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pre-formed food trays and containers;
  • Polystyrene takeaway packaging for food and beverages;
  • Expanded polystyrene food and beverage retail packaging (such as foam takeaway containers or some instant noodle cups); and
  • Plastics with additives that make them fragment into micro-plastics.

Other PVC and polystyrene food and beverage packaging will be banned from mid-2025.

“The phase out of plastic shopping bags showed how easily we can make changes at retail and household level to avoid plastic waste and do better for nature. We won’t miss these plastic items when they are gone either. With a bit of support and advice, switching to reusable products to replace these unnecessary plastics is easy,” said Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

Dispose of used face masks and RATs in your rubbish bin

Finished with your disposable face mask or rapid antigen test? Put them in the rubbish bin as neither can be recycled.

Council staff have noticed disposable masks being discarded in yellow recycling bins, and there’s concern that rapid antigen tests (RATs) may also be incorrectly thought to be recyclable because they have plastic components.

There is only one place for disposable face masks, used RATs, disposable gloves, tissues and other personal protection items, and that is in a rubbish bin or red wheelie bin.

How to live more sustainably

Waste management is a major challenge in NZ as three quarters of our waste that is sent to landfill is recoverable.

We can show love for our environment and our planet by living as waste-free as possible. We can also waste less money in the process!

Get more information on how to live waste free (Recycle NZ).

Page last updated: 27/10/2023

Copyright © 2023, Community & Public Health,