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.

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.

“We don’t want disposable face masks or RATs contaminating our recycling, which can result in loads being rejected and taken to landfill,”
says Ashburton District Council Infrastructure Services Group Manager Neil McCann.

Kerbside refuse collectors have noticed an increased number of disposable masks being put into recycling, alongside other common incorrect items such as disposable nappies.

There has also been an increase in masks littering footpaths and reserves.

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 CPH 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 has delivered on its promise to phase out problem plastics and some single-use plastics by July 2025.

The plastics phase-outs will take place in three stages. Items to be phased in October 2022 (Phase 1) include:

  • PVC preformed rigid food trays and containers;
  • Polystyrene takeaway and beverage packaging;
  • Expanded polystyrene food and drink packaging;
  • Degradable plastics such as oxo and photo degradable options;
  • Plastic drink stirrers; and
  • Plastic stemmed cotton buds.

“These types of plastics often end up as waste in landfills and cause pollution in our soils, waterways and the ocean. Reducing plastic waste will improve our environment and ensure we live up to our clean, green reputation,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

“Phasing out unnecessary and problematic plastics will help reduce waste to landfill, improve our recycling system and encourage reusable or environmentally responsible alternatives.”

Plastic Free July 2022: Join the challenge.

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: 12/07/2022

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