Fifty farms in the Canterbury region are to be surveyed to obtain a clearer picture of how farmers deal with non-natural waste.
Farmers have traditionally dealt with waste by burning, burying and bulk storing, but Canterbury Regional Council says those methods are not viable in the long term.
While there are already schemes in place to collect plastics and chemicals, the council says the uptake is generally low and more alternatives to waste disposal need to be found.
Environmental consultants will start visting the farms next month to identify the waste streams and volumes involved.
Contaminated sites officer Isla Hepburn said current practices should be the last resort.
A report on the research will be available by the end of June.