PERC is delighted by the Government’s decision to declare plastic packaging, tyres, electrical and electronic products (e-waste), agrichemicals and their containers, refrigerants, and farm plastics “priority products”. The Ministry for the Environment invited Dr. Trisia Farrelly to speak at the launch at Remarkit in Porirua yesterday on behalf of the New Zealand Product Stewardship Council.
The declaration means that product stewardship schemes must now be developed for each of the declared priority products. Product stewardship puts greater responsibility on those who make and use products to reduce the waste and other environmental harm these products may cause throughout their full lifecycle.
This is an historic moment in our waste management legislation. Until now, not one product has been declared a priority product under the WMA since it was passed in 2008. This has meant that all product stewardship schemes have been voluntary. We know these have not been entirely successful as NZ has been recognised as one of the most wasteful countries in the world.
Mandatory product stewardship of these priority products will create a level playing field for producers and eliminate the opportunities for ‘free riders’ we have seen in the past.
One of the really exciting things about regulated product stewardship schemes is that, if well-designed, they can incentivise carbon neutral production, bio and eco benign products, and alternative delivery systems which can eliminate the need for more materials or packaging altogether. Regulated product stewardship schemes also can dramatically reduce the variety of problematic materials flowing into and through our economy and entering our ecosystems.
Well-designed schemes will make it a lot easier for us to meet our national targets and regional and international obligations (e.g. to reduce ozone depleting substances, carbon emissions, and persistent organic pollutants). They help us to produce clean, sorted, and high value post-consumption materials which are attractive in currently dwindling international markets.
Essentially, a well designed product stewardship scheme could vastly improve our reputation as a country that reduces and takes care of its own trash rather than dumping it elsewhere.
Mandatory product stewardship means everyone benefits from making and using products. Product stewardship ensures the true cost of a product is reflected in the purchase price. Up until now, these costs have mostly been carried by ratepayers, local authorities, and the environment.
This RNZ interview with Adele Rose of 3R, Marty Hoffart of the Zero Waste Network, and Rachel Barker from Plastics New Zealand has more information about the declaration.
Making the declarations is just the first step. Now what is needed are the developing of ambitious schemes that focus at the top of the zero waste hierarchy (prevention, reduction, reuse, redesign, repair).
Future oriented, innovative, and ambitious schemes must be co-designed including tangata whenua, local and central Government, industry, NGOs, recyclers and zero waste experts, and community and consumer representatives.
Regardless of the work ahead, the Massey University Political Ecology Research Centre is celebrating, as it means Aotearoa is one step closer to a zero waste economy.