The New Zealand government has proposed regulated product stewardship schemes, rather than voluntary programs, to reduce plastic waste and to divert waste from landfill.
Implementing regulated schemes in the waste space would be a first for the New Zealand government, Associate Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage, explained.
“Well-designed product stewardship schemes ensure that those making, selling and using products all help take responsibility to recover the materials and avoid them ending up in landfills.
“Regulated product stewardship helps puts the responsibility for effective material and waste management on product manufacturers, importers, retailers and users, rather than on communities, councils, neighbourhoods and nature,” Sage said.
Sage released a public consultation document titled, “Proposed priority products and priority product stewardship scheme guidelines” at the Sustainability Trust in Wellington on August 9.
Priority product categories proposed for regulated product stewardship schemes are:
- Packaging, including beverage containers and plastic packaging;
- Refrigerants and other synthetic greenhouse gases; and
- Agrichemicals and their containers and other farm plastics.
Sage explained that the 14 existing accredited schemes are all voluntary.
“While some, such as the agrecovery scheme, for agricultural chemical containers, have provided significant benefits, much more can be achieved with a comprehensive regulated scheme which creates a level playing field and helps reduce waste and the risk of environmental from it.
“This is the first time the tools for regulated product stewardship in the Waste Minimisation Act are being looked at seriously, although they have been in the Act since 2008,” Sage said.
The consultation document proposes to co-design with business and other stakeholders a regulated product stewardship scheme for tyres. This would help to deliver on New Zealand First’s Coalition Agreement with Labour to improve product stewardship of tyres.
“Like other countries New Zealand’s economy is based on a ‘take, make and dispose’ model, which treats nature and the resources it provides as ‘free’ and disposable.
“Regulated product stewardship is a step towards changing that and to designing waste out of production. This is part of a longer-term goal of moving to a more efficient, low-emissions, sustainable and inclusive economy for New Zealand,” Sage said.
Many products and materials presently lost to landfill could be recovered and reused throughout the economy creating new business opportunities and new jobs with help from these schemes.
One example is reprocessing “waste” plastic bottles back into food packaging which creates less need for imports on new plastic flake for bottle manufacture.
“Products that have reached the end of their life can be used to make something new, especially if they are designed better for reuse and recycling.
“There is strong industry, council and community support for government to ‘level the playing field’ – ensure all participate, and create better incentives to reduce waste and diverting materials from landfills,” Sage explained.
Following consultation, the next step will be to work with business and other stakeholders to co-design regulations that will work for them and the environment.
Consultation on what products should be considered is open now and closes on October 4, 2019.