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by Simon Lord

last updated 29/08/2019

Rubbish regulation could pack a punch

by Simon Lord

last updated 29/08/2019

August 2019 – The Ministry for the Environment is seeking submissions after publishing a consultation document  which would see retailers and hospitality businesses responsible for specified products and packaging at their end of life

Beverage and single-use plastic packaging are among the proposed priorities for new product stewardship regulations

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of household waste production per capita in the OECD, yet New Zealanders are highly concerned about waste. According to a 2018 survey by the Ministry for the Environment (MFE), we rank waste as one of the three topics Kiwis are most concerned about.

While many franchises have been taking action in this area for some time, with paper straws, re-useable coffee cups and non-plastic products being widely adopted and promoted, the idea of product stewardship now being proposed by the MFE could pose new challenges for retail and hospitality businesses by making them responsible for beverage and single-use packaging.

Product stewardship (sometimes called Extended Producer Responsibility) is when producers, brand owners, importers, retailers and consumers accept responsibility for reducing a product’s environmental impact. To date, New Zealand has had a voluntary approach to product stewardship, although the Waste Minimisation Act allows for the government to declare a waste stream to be a ‘priority product’, which means a mandatory product stewardship scheme would be implemented and all producers, brand owners, importers, retailers and consumers of that product would have to participate in it. 

The Government’s 2019 Wellbeing Budget includes funds to develop mandatory product stewardship schemes for tyres, lithium batteries and refrigerants. On 9 August 2019 the Associate Minister for the Environment the Hon Eugenie Sage revealed a consultation document on the MFE’s proposal for regulated product stewardship. This would make producers responsible for specified problematic products at the end of life, and ensure the costs of proper waste management are paid by producers and consumers, not communities and the environment.

The proposed six priority products are: 

  • Tyres
  • Electrical and electronic products (e-waste)
  • Refrigerants and other synthetic greenhouse gases
  • Agrichemicals and their containers
  • Farm plastics
  • Packaging (beverage packaging, single-use plastic packaging).

Balance required, says Retail NZ

Retail NZ has commented, ‘The implementation of mandatory product stewardship will add further red-tape and cost to businesses. Of course, you can pass the added costs of stewardship onto your customers, but this may not be sustainable. The proposal also has the potential to further complicate arrangements between retailers and manufacturers. We believe that considerable foresight is needed to ensure a balance between being eco-friendly and business-healthy, is achieved.’

A summary of the Government's proposals may be downloaded here. Submissions close at 5pm on Friday 4 October 2019.

A two-stage process is proposed: 

  • Stage one (this consultation) consults on the proposed declaration of six priority products and ministerial guidelines to clarify expected outcomes and attributes of accredited priority product schemes 
  • Stage two will consult progressively by product group through 2019–2021 on proposed WMA regulations.
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