Quarantine waste is not a topic we hear spoken about often, but it is a very important part of our biosecurity systems. So let's dive in and see what it’s all about. Quarantine waste is generated by many activities at the border and must be dealt with by treatment and/or destruction to ensure we protect our beautiful country. The last thing we need is to put in significant amounts of effort to keep pests and diseases out, to then have a pest crawl out of a rubbish bag at the last hurdle.
So, what types of activities at the border result in quarantine waste?
- Garbage and galley waste from overseas vessels
- Hull fouling cleaned off from visiting vessels
- Items and foodstuffs seized from overseas cruise vessel passengers
- Cargo spilled during unloading (i.e. bulk grain).
- Garbage and galley waste collected by flight kitchen staff from overseas aircraft. If you have ever watched the flight staff collect all of the rubbish from passengers you will know how much there is!
- Items and foodstuffs seized from air passengers and crew
Sea and Air Cargo:
- Goods failing inspection that can’t be treated so require destruction
- Goods not permitted entry into New Zealand
- Goods with pests that are so bad they cannot be treated and released (i.e. A fruit fly).
- Waste associated with sea containers (sweepings). If you are a TF Operator or an Accredited Person you will be very familiar with the rules around this. If you need a refresher, you can find more information in the TFGEN.
- Goods that can never be released (some live plants and microorganisms).
- Waste from processing restricted goods (i.e. pork scraps, grain waste from feed mills or wool pieces from scouring operations).
- Risk goods that have been either seized or surrendered
- Within New Zealand, such as the recent Mycoplasma bovis disease eradication programme.
As you can see above, there are many different activities at the border that cause quarantine waste and the sheer volume can be immense. So how can we get rid of it as safely as possible? Well, it depends on the type of waste, but it is all dealt with by treatment and/or destruction.
- Heat treatment (commonly steam sterilisation)
- Deep burial
Perhaps the most interesting of these methods is the deep burial. So what is it exactly? Quarantine waste that is being deep buried goes to a commercial landfill and a hole is dug in an existing pile of compacted waste. This hole is deep enough that when it is covered the quarantine waste will be buried with a 2-meter cap – which seems like an insurmountable journey for a fruit fly!
Waste that is disposed of using this method is treated the same way as hazardous material such as asbestos-contaminated building waste. It is buried in a separate area and each load is located by GPS within the landfill. So if there are any problems, they will know where to look.
To ensure that all of these methods are completed correctly and are appropriate for the type of waste, MPI has certain controls at each stage of the process.
- The movement of cargo and vessels into New Zealand (via MPI-approved Ports of First Arrival).
- Determining the risk status of cargo and vessels (Target Evaluation)
- Cargo unpacking (Transitional Facilities)
- Confinement in quarantine for some types of cargo (Containment Facilities)
- Movement of quarantine waste (Approved Providers, including transport and Transitional Facilities).
- Treatment of quarantine waste (Approved Biosecurity Treatments, Providers and Transitional Facilities).
This may seem like a lot of time and effort for some rubbish that was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it is essential for the well-being of New Zealand. Without these methods, all sorts of unwanted pests and diseases could take up residence in our beautiful country and for many their livelihoods could be destroyed.