The New Zealand Waste Strategy
The 2002 New Zealand Waste Strategy sets a new direction for the reduction, resource recovery and better management of waste in New Zealand. The strategy addresses a challenge facing many countries in the world: how to break the strong link between economic development and waste generation. It provides a broad policy framework for addressing the different problems arising from the generation of waste.
Among the different waste streams discussed in the strategy are those that present particular management or disposal problems. These wastes are often products that have reached the end of their useful life, such as used oil, batteries, tyres and cars.
Reducing harm from these wastes requires additional measures throughout a product's life cycle, from manufacture and use through to disposal. These measures include product design, making resource recovery from waste easier, improving resource recovery systems, and providing for the costs of wastes in prices. Product stewardship is one way to ensure that appropriate measures are implemented.
What is product stewardship?
Product stewardship involves producers, importers, brand owners, retailers and other parties involved in the life cycle of products accepting responsibility for the environmental impacts of the products throughout their life cycle. At the manufacturing stage this includes having waste issues considered when decisions are made on the choice of material, the design of the product, the manufacturing process and efficiency of resource use. It may also include mechanisms such as resource recovery from waste and improved disposal of products. The term 'extended producer responsibility' is used in a similar way, although often with a narrower focus on the responsibilities of producers.
Product stewardship schemes have been implemented in many other countries and regions, including Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia.
Examples of product stewardship schemes in New Zealand
There are already several examples in New Zealand of industry operating voluntary schemes based on product stewardship principles. For example, importers of refrigerants operate a programme to fund the destruction of CFCs recovered from end-of-life refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment. Other examples include:
- schemes for the collection of old mobile phones and batteries, initiated by Vodafone, Telecom and the mobile phone companies
- used oil recovery schemes run by several oil companies
- recovery of whiteware initiated by Fisher and Paykel Ltd.
All these schemes are industry-led and have been organised voluntarily. Current legislation does not provide for regulation for product stewardship.
Strengths and limitations of the current approach
The main strengths of the current voluntary approach are that it provides flexibility and the opportunity for industry leadership, and avoids effort in areas where there may be little benefit from a scheme. The main limitations are that scheme development is slow and piecemeal. Some of this slowness is due to uncertainties about 'free-riders' (non-participants who seek to benefit while not complying with the mechanisms established or contributing to the costs). Concerns about competition regulation may also be a factor. There can also be a reluctance to 'own' a waste problem as this can involve additional costs.
Options and the proposed approach
This document states the policy objectives of the Government and addresses options to achieve them. In doing so, it draws on international and domestic experience. The options discussed include:
- the status quo - what we have now
- industry-led schemes, with the regulation of free-riders
- a mandatory approach to the establishment of product stewardship schemes.
Using the strengths of each of them, the paper then outlines a preferred approach. This uses voluntary mechanisms, with regulation as a safety net to fill the gaps.
This document seeks comment on these and any other options, and on issues affecting their implementation.
Issues for further consideration on product stewardship
Section 5 of the paper discusses a number of issues that will need further consideration in the development of product stewardship policy for New Zealand and section 6 contains some specific questions for your consideration.
Water efficiency labelling scheme for New Zealand
Section 7 also addresses water efficiency labelling for whiteware, toilets and taps. This issue is linked to Australian initiatives to improve the efficiency of water use, but it also has energy benefits from savings in the use of hot water. We are seeking feedback on a similar labelling system for New Zealand.
Once comment on this discussion document is received, the Government will consider the policy options. This may entail new legislation, which will then be open to further public scrutiny and comment through parliamentary processes, including select committee consideration of bills.