In an ideal world there is no waste
To live within the limits of our planet we need end of life products and packaging to experience new life in some form.
Some materials are valuable or accessible enough for the cycle of waste-to-resource to fund itself, so that activity occurs naturally in a free market.
Scrap aluminium uses only 5% of the energy used to make new aluminium therefore it is economic for manufacturers to pay a sustainable market rate for recovery and recycling.
The reality for most end of life products, often a mix of recyclable and non-recyclable materials, is that beneficial activity doesn’t fund itself and therefore individuals or communities are left with disposal issues.
Local authorities and businesses may choose to implement ratepayer subsidised or user-pays recycling activity but these seldom provide a complete solution for 100% of the material.
In these cases stewardship intervention is required in order to trigger that beneficial outcome.
Stewardship for end of life products and packaging.
Product Stewardship means that each participant in a product’s life cycle contributes towards effective recycling or disposal of that product and its packaging when required, rather than lumping all cost and responsibility on the individual end user or whole community.
Stewardship can occur in a number of ways and can involve one organisation, an industry group or an entire country for a specific waste type if it is deemed important enough.
Stewardship up the supply chain!
Rather than just being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, successful product stewardship should also take into account how we develop, manufacture and consume a product in order to minimise the need for end of life recycling or disposal.
As New Zealand imports most of our consumer goods, our current stewardship programmes are mainly focused on dealing with the resulting waste rather than these upstream aspects. However as programmes mature, they (and the consumers they represent) should be able to exert more influence back through the supply chain. Domestic manufacturers should also take note!
Minimising and improving packaging
Incorporating recyclable materials wherever possible
Avoiding hazardous ingredients or manufacturing bi-products
Avoiding complex or mixed materials that cannot easily be separated or treated