Government’s announcement that it will begin consulting on a plan to make multiple industries accountable for their products and packaging at end of life is groundbreaking, but long overdue, for New Zealand.

This is according to product stewardship specialists 3R Group. Chief Executive Adele Rose says the announcement is one of the most significant in terms of tackling waste, and finally makes use of powerful tools provided by the Waste Minimisation Act 2008.

Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage today announced consultation will begin on a proposal to declare consumer goods packaging, tyres, e-waste, refrigerants and other synthetic gases, agrichemicals and their containers, and farm plastics priority products under the Act.

Adele says many people aren’t aware that voluntary product stewardship is already happening all around them. “From paint to soft plastics, mobile phones to glass bottles and jars – there are businesses already working to take responsibility for their products at end-of-life.”

“This move on the part of the Government will strengthen and broaden the work that is already being done by ensuring there are no free-riders in these proposed product categories. All producers and the whole supply chain would have to participate.”

Regulated product stewardship under the Act is a solution for managing products that can cause environmental harm at the end of life. Once something is declared a priority product, a product stewardship scheme must be developed and accredited, and use of regulatory powers under the Act can be exercised that will require all producers to participate.

“3R is right in the thick of the development of product stewardship programmes on behalf of various stakeholders for many of these proposed priority products. Projects are already well underway for end-of-life tyres, refrigerant gases, rigid food and beverage packaging, as well as lubricant packaging. We’re also managing existing accredited voluntary schemes for glass bottles and jars through the Glass Packaging Forum and paint and packaging for Resene PaintWISETM,” says Adele.

The Government’s declaration of priority product is no surprise for some of these products, however the inclusion of packaging is an indication of how serious they are about transitioning New Zealand to a circular economy, she says.

“We’ve long believed that product stewardship is the cornerstone of the development of a circular economy. It encourages waste to become a resource, rather than just be thrown away. This steers us away from the current wasteful linear economy where we take resources, make things and then just throw them in landfill. Critically, it forces change further up the supply chain, looking at design, manufacture and material use.”

“For a long time we have been lagging behind other OECD countries and not living up to our own expectations of a clean green New Zealand. This announcement has the power to make huge inroads to improve that.”

“Co-designed and regulated product stewardship with use of regulatory powers has the potential to transform New Zealand in terms of reducing waste. It will decrease our reliance on virgin materials and tackle elements of climate change, while stimulating job creation as new business opportunities are realised. It is also the signal industry has needed to invest in onshore processing.”

“Our Kiwi ingenuity will take us a long way now that the right regulatory tools are being used.”

Further information: Government media release and consultation document.