As part of the wider plan to reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in landfills or polluting the environment, the Government has declared six priority products for regulated product stewardship under the Waste Minimisation Act.
What the priority products are
The six products are:
- plastic packaging
- electrical and electronic products (e-waste)
- agrichemicals and their containers
- farm plastics.
The decision follows public consultation held in 2019.
Read Associate Minister Sage's media release: Government to regulate environmentally harmful plastic packaging, tyres, e-waste [Beehive website]
Regulated product stewardship means regulations are used to increase incentives for circular resource use and the responsibilities of producers for managing end-of-life products. It can put more responsibility for a product’s life-cycle and waste management on manufacturers, importers, retailers and users, rather than on communities, councils, neighbourhoods and nature.
The first step has been taken, setting a framework for regulated product stewardship by declaring priority products and guidelines for priority product stewardship schemes.
The next steps are to work with stakeholders to co-design options for regulated product stewardship schemes, receive accreditation applications for those schemes, and consult on the potential regulation to support those schemes. Timing will vary by product.
- Co-design has been completed for tyres, refrigerants, and agrichemicals. Applications for accreditation and consultation on regulations for those schemes are anticipated by early 2021.
- Co-design background reports are available for tyres [Tyrewise website] and refrigerants [Synthetic Refrigerant Stewardship website]. The agrichemicals and containers co-design process has been run by the Agrecovery Foundation.
- Co-design is underway for farm plastics, e-waste, and large batteries. Applications for accreditation and consultation on regulations for those schemes is anticipated in the latter half of 2021.
- Co-design has not yet started for plastic packaging. Consultation on proposed measures to address hard-to-recycle and single-use plastic items is now open and closes on 4 November 2020. Visit the consultation. Joined-up progress in these two work programmes is planned for 2020-21.
Why declare a ‘priority product’?
Declaration of ‘priority product’ under the Waste Minimisation Act creates an obligation and opportunity.
- As soon as is practicable after a product is declared a priority product, a product stewardship scheme for that product must be developed and accreditation obtained (section 10)
- An option becomes available to prohibit the sale of a priority product except in accordance with the accredited scheme (section 22(1)(a)). This would mandate participation in an accredited scheme and reduce free-rider issues typically experienced by voluntary accredited schemes.
What other regulations are available?
Under the Waste Minimisation Act there are a range of regulatory powers that may be placed on products, whether or not they have been declared priority products (section 23).
- Control or prohibition of disposal.
- Control or prohibition of manufacture or sale of products that contain specified materials (Used for plastic microbeads in 2017 and for single-use plastic shopping bags in 2018).
- Required take-back services for products.
- Fees payable for the management of a product, who must pay when and what the fees will be used for.
- Required deposit on the sale of a product, and requirements for its refund and use.
- Requirements for labelling of a product.
- Standards to be met when reusing, recycling, or recovering a product or material, and who is required to enforce them.
- Required collection of information and reporting for certain regulations (1-5 above).
Criteria for priority products
Before declaring a priority product the Minister must be satisfied that the following criteria are met.
- The product will or may cause significant environmental harm when it becomes waste, or
- There are significant benefits from reduction, reuse, recycling, recovery, or treatment of the product, and
- The product can be effectively managed under a product stewardship scheme.
Process for declaring a priority product
Any priority product declaration will be notified in the New Zealand Gazette. If required, ministerial guidelines about the product stewardship schemes will be provided.
Before new regulations are passed, the Ministry for the Environment will consult with those who may be affected by the regulations. This includes manufacturers and brand owners who sell their product in New Zealand and any scheme managers who have an existing accredited product stewardship scheme for the same product.
Declaration of priority products notice and general guidelines
Declaration of Priority Products Notice 2020 [New Zealand Gazette website]
General guidelines for Product Stewardship Schemes for Priority Products Notice 2020 [New Zealand Gazette website]