skip to main content

I want to...

Current filter:

What is hazardous waste?

Hazardous Substances

We use hazardous substances every day and in all sorts of ways. Some are so commonplace that we don't even realise that they're dangerous - but they are.

So we need to be sure about what's hazardous, what's not and how to handle and dispose of the dangerous ones. But do you know how to do that?

That's where the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO) comes in.

The HSNO Act pulls together the management of hazardous substances into one law that focuses on all of their hazards - to you and to the environment. It makes sure you have enough information to use and dispose of them safely.

What is a hazardous substance?

A substance is hazardous if it has one or more of the following properties:


  • Don't handle unless properly qualified
  • Keep away from open flames and sparks


  • Keep away from open flames and sparks
  • Keep away from oxidisersOnly open when in good ventilation

Oxidiser and organic peroxide

  • Keep container closed
  • Keep away from flammables


  • Wear gloves and/or protective clothing


  • Keep in labeled container
  • Wear protective clothing


  • Use proper equipment
  • Don't pour down the drain
  • Keep in labelled container

How do I know if a substance is hazardous?

Sale to Public

Information provided by the manufacturer, supplier or retailer (typically, this would be as a label on the package or container) should tell you:

  • If a substance is hazardous
  • Its hazardous properties
  • How to dispose of it or where to find that out
  • Contact details for the manufacturer or supplier

There may be additional information - for instance in the package or attached in a plastic sleeve - depending on its type and degree of hazard.

Supply to Workplace

A hazardous substance supplied to a workplace must be accompanied by more detailed documentation on:

  • The type and degree of hazard
  • Kinds and extent of harm or damage it can cause
  • When that harm or damage is likely to happen and how to prevent it happening
  • How to dispose of it and how not to dispose of it


When a substance is packaged for transport, the package must have a placard or label indicating its type and degree of hazard and the driver must carry documentation identifying the substance and the hazards it presents.

What are my responsibilities?

  • You must make sure that you have been supplied with the right information and documentation for the hazardous substances that you deal with
  • Each hazardous substance must be supplied in packages that comply with packaging controls. You must make sure that this packaging is not damaged. Information supplied with the hazardous substance must be kept with the substance and must remain in good condition
  • You need to comply with the controls set by the Environment Risk Management Authority (ERMA) on each substance that you deal with. Check to see if a code of practice has been approved by the Authority. Following that could make compliance with these controls easier
  • If you are dealing with restricted hazardous substances (such as almost all explosives and many highly toxic substances), you may need go become an approved handler or ensure that certified approved handlers deal with these substances
  • In some cases, your site may need to be certified as suitable for some hazardous substances
  • For certain substances, you will need to be prepared for an emergency (for example, have the right sort of fire extinguisher available where there are flammable substances and have an emergency management plan.

Dispose of something safely?

All hazardous substances should have disposal instructions on their labels or in the accompanying information. Generally, disposal should be by treatment by a hazardous waste management operator or disposal to suitable landfills in accordance with their acceptance criteria, or, in certain cases, to sewer, in accordance with your local authority's trade waste acceptance criteria.

You can call Councils Environmental Monitoring Officer for advice on disposal.

Information About Mobile Household Hazardous Waste Collection

Monitored and Enforced

The HSNO Act is enforced by a number of central and local government agencies, such as hazardous substances staff employed by councils and Occupational Safety and Health staff at the Department of Labour. Enforcement agencies will monitor compliance with the HSNO Act and regulations and conditions set by ERMA. They can issue compliance orders and infringement notices and prosecute offenders when an order is not complied with. Enforcement agencies can also advise you on how to comply with the HSNO Act and regulations.

The Big Do's and Don'ts

Keep substances in their proper container Store in a way that damages the packaging
Read the label Store or use where unauthorised people - particularly children - can gain access to them
Make sure that labels do not get damaged Deposit in landfill or down drain without first checking that it is allowed
Read any additional information supplied with the substance or package Detonate or burn substances other than fuels unless qualified to do so
Keep all the information  
Clean up spills quickly provided this can be done in a way that protects you and the environment  

More Information

The manufacturer, supplier or importer should provide you with a contact number for more information. The enforcement agencies, particularly the hazardous substances experts in local authorities and the Occupational Safety and Health Service of the Department of Labour as well as ERMA New Zealand (Environmental Risk management Authority), are able to give you advice when dealing with hazardous substances. They can help you determine if you need an emergency plan and give you advice on how to prepare one.

ERMA New Zealand is an independent body established under the HSNO Act. Its role is to assess the environment and health risks and to place controls to make sure that these are managed properly. It maintains a public register of all approved hazardous substances - including the controls on each substance - and produces guides and other resources for dealing with hazardous substances.

Ministry for the Environment
+64 4 917 7400
+64 4 917 7523
View Website
PO Box 10326, Wellington, New Zealand

Environment Risk Management Authority
+64 4 473 8426
+64 4 473 8433
View Website
PO Box 131, Wellington, New Zealand


Napier City Council - Copyright © 2024 Napier City Council

Disclaimers and Copyright
While every endeavour has been taken by the Napier City Council to ensure that the information on this website is accurate and up to date, Napier City Council shall not be liable for any loss suffered through the use, directly or indirectly, of information on this website. Information contained has been assembled in good faith. Some of the information available in this site is from the New Zealand Public domain and supplied by relevant government agencies. Napier City Council cannot accept any liability for its accuracy or content. Portions of the information and material on this site, including data, pages, documents, online graphics and images are protected by copyright, unless specifically notified to the contrary. Externally sourced information or material is copyright to the respective provider.

© Napier City Council - / +64 6 835 7579 /