Reassessment of methyl bromide
Decision Date: 11 August 2021
The decision has been made on the modified reassessment of methyl bromide, and the decision is published.
Decision date: 11 August 2021
The Decision-making Committee has revised the controls for using methyl bromide, a fumigant used on products such as logs and fresh produce for export.
The decision considers protecting human health and the environment from the risks of ongoing methyl bromide use. It also acknowledges the concerns from Māori and the wider public regarding the health and environmental effects of methyl bromide, as well as Aotearoa New Zealand’s international obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
The reassessment focused on recapture requirements, and a comprehensive suite of controls to mitigate the risks of methyl bromide use. Banning methyl bromide was out of scope of this reassessment.
Using methyl bromide in a ship’s hold is banned
Using methyl bromide in ships’ holds will be banned from 1 January 2023. From 1 January 2022 until its use is banned, the buffer zone is 900 metres.
Recapture controls are amended
In general terms, recapture of methyl bromide refers to the use of technology to remove methyl bromide from the fumigated enclosure, so that after use it cannot be released into the air.
The decision focuses on recapturing methyl bromide and associated controls. Recapture controls have been amended so any risks associated with methyl bromide use are negligible, while retaining its benefits.
Operators are responsible for using the recapture technology.
From 1 January 2023, 80 percent of methyl bromide will need to be recaptured from every container fumigation, increasing to 99 percent recapture from 1 January 2031.
Recapture rates for containers
|Start date||Minimum recapture|
|1 January 2023||80%|
|1 January 2027||90%|
|1 January 2031||99%|
Under sheets and tarpaulins
- From 1 January 2022, recapture technology must be used on half of all fumigations and all fumigations must use recapture technology from 1 January 2025.
- From 1 January 2022, a minimum of 30 percent of methyl bromide must be recaptured, where recapture technology is used, increasing to 99 percent from 1 January 2035.
- From 1 January 2022, 55 percent annual average recapture must be achieved for a site where recapture technology is used, increasing to 99 percent from 1 January 2035.
Recapture rates for sheets and tarpaulins
|Start date||Percentage of fumigations using recapture technology||Minimum percentage of recapture for each fumigation||Annual average recapture across a site|
|1 January 2022||50%||30%||55%|
|1 January 2023||75%||40%||60%|
|1 January 2025||100%||50%||65%|
|1 January 2027||100%||60%||75%|
|1 January 2029||100%||70%||85%|
|1 January 2031||100%||80%||95%|
|1 January 2033||100%||90%||99%|
|1 January 2035||100%||99%||99%|
Buffer zones are in place
These rules come into force on 1 January 2022.
- For fumigation of containers, the buffer zone is 10 or 25 metres, depending on the container’s volume.
- For a ship’s hold fumigation, until this use is prohibited, the buffer zone is 900 metres.
- For fumigations under sheets and tarpaulins, buffer zones range from between 50 to 700 metres, depending on the methyl bromide dose rate and recapture performance.
|Minimum recapture||Minimum buffer zone:
dose rate ≤ 40 g/m³
|Minimum buffer zone: 40 g/m³ < dose rate ≤ 72 g/m³||Minimum buffer zone: 72 g/m³ < dose rate ≤ 120 g/m³|
|No recapture||210 metres||515 metres||700 metres|
|30%||155 metres||380 metres||520 metres|
|40%||135 metres||335 metres||455 metres|
|50%||120 metres||290 metres||395 metres|
|60%||100 metres||245 metres||335 metres|
|70%||80 metres||200 metres||270 metres|
|80%||65 metres||155 metres||210 metres|
|90%||50 metres||110 metres||150 metres|
|99%||50 metres||70 metres||95 metres|
Using “dosing to concentration” technology
At present the amount of methyl bromide used is calculated on the total volume of the enclosed space.
“Dosing to concentration” means less methyl bromide is used in an enclosed space.
Technology is used to measure how much methyl bromide is needed. It measures the concentration of methyl bromide in the space between the product and the enclosed space, for example, the surrounding space in between logs and a container. Once the right level of methyl bromide is reached, application stops.
From 1 January 2024, at least 50 percent of all fumigations must be dosed to concentration, increasing to 100 percent of all fumigations from 1 January 2027.
Ventilation and wind speed
Methyl bromide can only be vented from one ship’s hold at a time, with at least two hours’ wait between venting holds. This will apply until ship hold fumigation is banned.
When venting methyl bromide from any fumigation, windspeed must be at least two metres per second.
Notify local communities
Local councils, neighbouring marae and other neighbouring community places must be notified at least 24 hours before fumigation takes place.
This is in addition to Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017 notification requirements.
Monitoring, recording and reporting
The details of all fumigation operations must be recorded. Information required includes:
- operational details and parameters of the fumigation (such as date, time, location, quantity)
- methyl bromide concentrations
- wind speed
- exposure measurements
- technical specifications of the monitoring equipment used.
Annual reporting is required to ensure that recapture targets are met, all controls are complied with, and actions are being taken to reduce methyl bromide emissions and use.
Annual reports must be provided to the EPA by 30 June each year for the preceding calendar year. They are additional to the reporting requirements in the Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017.
Notifying local authorities if tolerable exposure limits are exceeded
Local councils must be notified within 24 hours if methyl bromide emissions travel beyond the buffer zone, and exceeds tolerable exposure limits.
Background to the reassessment
In 2010, the EPA’s predecessor, the Environmental Risk Management Authority, set a 10-year deadline for industry to achieve full recapture of methyl bromide. This meant that operators using the fumigant had to ensure that it was contained, rather than released into the environment.
In 2019, a timber industry group Stakeholders in Methyl Bromide Reduction (STIMBR) applied to the EPA for a reassessment of methyl bromide on the basis that full recapture was unachievable with current technology. Public consultation began in mid-2019, and a hearing was held in August 2020.
The Decision-making Committee reviewed a significant amount of information including the application, written submissions, oral presentations at the hearing, input from experts, advice from EPA staff, and outputs from air dispersion modelling.
Alternatives to methyl bromide use
The Decision-making Committee encourages parties to continue negotiations with international trade partners to reduce and, where possible, eliminate the use of methyl bromide, and to explore alternative processes.
This responsibility does not rest solely with methyl bromide users, it includes all other parties that benefit from methyl bromide treatment of commodities. The Committee strongly supports a strategic approach to the reduction of methyl bromide use and acknowledges that recapture is just one of the tools needed to ensure reduction and ultimate elimination of methyl bromide emissions.
Compliance and enforcement
The EPA, WorkSafe and local authorities all have responsibilities for compliance, monitoring and enforcement activities relating to methyl bromide. We will be collaborating with these agencies to ensure a robust approach to monitoring this new framework of controls.