It has been a long time reaching this point in the development of the Agrecovery programme. The process has revealed some important points of learning that will be valuable in the development of other product stewardship schemes. These lessons are not yet over, as the programme is reaching a critical phase in its development.
Some key lessons from Agrecovery.
- Industry is supportive of a product stewardship approach, provided it does not create competition imbalances. The creation of a level playing field is CRITICAL.
- The absence of a legislative framework, or even a future date for such a framework, has meant that the process of getting the programme to its current status has been long and drawn-out.
- There seems to be money to talk but not to "walk". Walking means significant "one-off" costs to participants and is a barrier to commitment. What is needed is a "hand up" not a "hand out". This is an area where the Government can provide significant assistance. The existence of a dedicated "Product Stewardship Fund" would act as a significant driver for industries to progress the development of schemes. This fund could provide short-term funding to programmes on the verge of existence that would help them over the significant hurdle of implementation. Short-term funding of this nature would be one off and deliver long-term outcomes.
- In a regulatory environment which prefers to be relatively "hands-off" and not prescriptive, private sector initiatives and models should be encouraged. They may not be the whole answer initially but they represent the best opportunity to bringing an industry solution into being.
- It is important a small, committed group which is representative of a sector be set up to drive forward a product stewardship scheme. Such a group should be made up of people that are decision-makers in the industry. Wider consultation feeds from this group.
- Competition issues around industry collaboration and price fixing can be avoided by the creation of a not-for-profit foundation to own the programme. Vertical contracts can then be put in place between companies/brand owners and the foundation. The foundation then takes responsibility for administering the programme and contracting programme managers.
- Local government offers a valuable resource with existing collection facilities that are well distributed and are not tied to a specific company in a sector. There are significant synergies, even when industry takes the lead, in working closely with local government.