New Zealand's waste problem is a big problem, and one that continues to grow. Every year almost one tonne of solid waste for every New Zealander ends up being buried at our landfills.
Below is a list showing how long it takes for the following common items to break down.
|Cigarette butts||1 - 5 years|
|Aluminium cans and caps||500 years|
|Glass bottles||1000 years|
|Plastic Bags||10 - 20 years|
|Plastic coated paper||5 years|
|Plastic film containers||20 - 30 years|
|Nylon fabric||30 - 40 years|
|Leather||up to 50 years|
|Wool socks||1 - 5 years|
|Orange and banana peels||up to 2 years|
|Tin cans||50 years|
As you can see from this table it takes a very long time for many of our everyday resources to break down in the landfill. After the waste is buried some of it will start to break down causing potential pollution problems such as leachate and methane gas. Leachate is a liquid made up of rainwater and rotting material, which is harmful to the environment if not properly contained and treated.
Methane gas is harmful to the Ozone layer and comes from the breakdown of organic materials. About 6% of New Zealand's Methane emissions come from landfills.
4R's Waste Management Hierarchy
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle to lessen the quantity of waste you throw away. Consider Recovery.
Take your own bags to the supermarket, this saves collecting bags that you don't really want, buy products with less packaging or recyclable packaging.
Reusable shopping bags are readily available and proven to be cost effective while also protecting the environment, second-hand dealers and charity groups will often take useful items.
Take advantage of the recycling collection that happens once a week in Waipawa and Waipukurau.
Consider composting or use of a building recycler who may recover materials from buildings.