The Government is proposing a new way to deal with environmentally harmful products before they become waste, including plastic packing and bottles, as part of a wider plan to reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in landfills.
Associate Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage released a public consultation document titled, “Proposed priority products and priority product stewardship scheme guidelines” at the Sustainability Trust in Wellington today.
“New Zealanders are proud of our country’s clean, green reputation and want to help ensure we live up to it.
“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,” says Eugenie.
“This is the first time that Government has been serious about creating regulated, rather than voluntary, product stewardship schemes in New Zealand.
“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.
“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."
Priority product categories proposed for regulated product stewardship schemes are:
• packaging, including beverage containers and plastic packaging
• electrical and electronic products (ewaste), starting with lithium-ion
• refrigerants and other synthetic greenhouse gases
• agrichemicals and their containers and other farm plastics.
“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.
“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.
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.
“Today’s proposal also presents potential economic benefits. Many products and materials presently lost to landfill could be recovered and reused throughout the economy creating new business opportunities and new jobs.
“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.
“It's important that whatever we create not only benefits from the best overseas experience, but is designed to suit New Zealand’s unique situation and needs.
“Consultation is the first step towards regulation, deciding which products are declared ‘priority products’ and allowing mandatory regulation to be used under the Waste Minimisation Act. The next step will be to work with business and other stakeholders to co-design regulations that will work for them and the environment,” Eugenie says.
Overseas experience shows that this can be done at minimal new cost to business or consumers. Before any regulations are passed, the costs and benefits will be fully spelled out and consulted on.
Consultation on what products should be considered is open now and closes on 4 October 2019 visit https://www.mfe.govt.nz/consultations/priorityproducts for more details.