Council contracts specialists to conduct kerbside rubbish audit from time to time.A sample of kerbside rubbish is emptied out of the wheelie bin, and the rubbish taken for sorting and disposing of on the day that it is collected. No data on individual households will be recorded and confidentially of material will be protected. These audits assist Council in analysing and tracking the type and quantities of rubbish to landfill as part of our Waste Management and Minimisation Plan. This audit is COVID-19 alert level dependent.
Waste audits and privacy
The Waste Management and Minimisation Plan (WMMP) is a statutory document required of territorial authorities by the Waste Minimisation Act 2008. In accordance with this requirement, in 2018 South Waikato District Council adopted a new WMMP, which replaced the 2012 document.
The 2018 WMMP recognises the importance of waste data, stating “It is important that Council have reliable waste data in order to make informed decisions”. The WMMP’s Action Plan includes several actions relating to data, including an action to “Monitor and report on Council's contracted waste services”.
Since the 2018 WMMP was adopted, Council has made two major changes to waste management in the District. The Council-owned Tokoroa landfill has been closed and replaced with a transfer station on the same site. The second Council initiative was to replace its user-pays rubbish bag collection with a rates-funded rubbish wheelie bin collection.
To collect data on the new rubbish wheelie bin service, as per the action in the WMMP, SWDC has engaged an experienced contractor to conduct a composition audit of kerbside rubbish.
The audit methodology is based on Ministry for the Environment’s Solid Waste Analysis Protocol 2002. The audit involves the collection, each day for three days, of the contents of 60 Council rubbish bins. The rubbish is sorted into approximately 24 categories and weighed. The contractor has previously undertaken this type of audit for approximately 40 territorial authorities.
The legal grounds for kerbside rubbish audits are based on rubbish and recycling, once placed on the kerbside by the householder for collection, becoming the property of the Council. As the owner of the materials, Council is legally entitled to engage a contractor to collect, sort, and dispose of the material.
While residents occasionally raise privacy concerns relating to kerbside rubbish audits, the purpose of the Privacy Act 2020 is to “promote and protect individual privacy by providing a framework for protecting an individual’s right to privacy of personal information”. In the Act, “personal information” is defined as “information about an identifiable individual”. The current kerbside rubbish audit in South Waikato District has been designed so that it does not collect any data on identifiable individuals or households, so the Privacy Act is not relevant to this rubbish audit.
The steps taken by the contractor to ensure that privacy and confidentiality are maintained during the audit process are outlined below.
- When the sample of rubbish is being collected, the street addresses of individual households are not recorded and the sample from individual households are not labelled in any manner. As a result, the rubbish from an individual household is indistinguishable from all of the other rubbish in the sample.
- The sample is sorted and weighed in units that include the rubbish from five households, so composition data is not collected on individual households. The data from all of the sample units is then aggregated for analysis and the reporting of the results.
- Casual staff employed for the audit are briefed on the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of any sensitive material that may be found in the rubbish. The employment agreement signed by new casual staff includes clauses that relate to the handling of confidential information and privacy obligations. The clause on privacy obligations states “The Employer and the Employee shall comply with the obligations set out in the Privacy Act 2020. The Employee must not breach the privacy of any customer or client in the course of their employment.”
- All rubbish that is collected each morning is sorted and disposed of to landfill on the same day, so is under the care of the audit supervisor throughout the process.