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3 The Objectives for Product Stewardship in New Zealand

 

Product stewardship can contribute towards all three of The New Zealand Waste Strategy goals (see section 1.2). Product stewardship in New Zealand would have the following objectives.

Objective 1: Use resources more efficiently and reduce the volume of waste produced

Product stewardship can increase resource efficiency. Requiring producers to bear some financial responsibility for the end-of-life waste management costs of their products can encourage them to take actions that reduce these costs, such as eliminating excessive packaging or components that are costly to recycle. It could extend to improved design so that fewer resources are used by a product in its everyday function as, for example, in domestic washing machines where improved design can mean that these use less energy and water.

Objective 2: Increase the resources recovered

Product stewardship schemes often have a focus on take-back mechanisms for the products. The development of these mechanisms, particularly national ones, can result in economies of scale for recycling operations, leading to increased resource recovery. Good design can also help the 'de-construction' of products and the recovery of materials.

Objective 3: Include the costs of waste management into the price of products

Product stewardship shifts the burden for managing special wastes away from the general ratepayer on to those who produce the products and those who buy them. In this way it helps to internalise the environmental costs involved in managing products through their life cycle. Internalising these costs provides economic incentives to use resources efficiently. It is also in keeping with the polluter-pays principle.

Objective 4: Enhance product design

The efficiency with which a product uses resources is also an important feature of design. Better design for this can provide improvements in other areas. For example, reducing the number of components and having fewer different materials in the product can improve product reliability as well as making resource recovery from the used product easier.

Objective 5: Provide product stewardship that is effective and efficient

Product stewardship schemes should target areas where wastes are a significant problem and where worthwhile reductions in resource use and harm can be achieved. Schemes should be designed to retain competition, and should be carefully targeted at the problem of waste. Coverage will often need to be national rather than local. The benefits of any scheme should exceed the effort and costs of establishing and running it.

To achieve this, schemes should be run in a transparent way, with the responsibilities of all the parties clearly defined. Schemes should also be monitored to ensure their effective operation. Industry leadership and effective participation will help achieve this.