As part of a new waste strategy it’s proposed consumers have the right to return packaging and that businesses accept it and make it easy for customer to do so.

The eighth in a series written for NZ Food Technology.

By Natalie Martin, 3R Group Materials Innovation Manager

The way New Zealand creates, deals with and thinks about waste is set for a big shakeup with Government releasing sweeping new proposals.

The Ministry for the Environment’s Taking responsibility for our waste consultation document sets out a new waste strategy and legislation to replace the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 and Litter Act 1979. It puts a focus on moving to a circular economy by 2050 and, critically, it spreads the responsibility for dealing with, and reducing waste, across all of society with waste reduction targets proposed for businesses (30% – 50%), the public sector (30% – 50%) and households (60% – 70%).

The proposals are a strong departure from business as usual, and the document has a lot to absorb. However, there are some key points to consider.


The proposals look to strengthen mandatory product stewardship, with one major tool being eco-modulation. This is when businesses making products using recyclable material, or selling products which are longer lasting or easier to repair or dismantle have reduced stewardship fees.  Conversely, an increased fee would be applied to those whose products cause higher volumes of avoidable waste. 

Right to return

It’s also proposed that customers have the right to return packaging and that businesses not only accept it but make it easy for customers to do so. This incentivises business to consider factors such as excess packaging, reuse, packaging recyclability, and access to end-of-life solutions for packaging, as they, and not the customer, may have to deal with it.

Problem materials

While Government has moved forward with its proposed phasing out and banning of difficult-to-recycle plastics and some single-use plastic items, the Ministry’s new proposal looks at using the Imports and Exports (Restrictions) Act 1988 to ban their import.

Businesses dependent on the import and export of goods will need to investigate the implications of any such ban for their supply chain.

There is more consider, which I don’t have the space for here, but I highly recommend you have a read of the proposals and make a submission before 10 December. For a fuller analysis you can also check out this article.