Firms might be held responsible for where their products end up

Companies would be forced to take responsibility over their products' life-cycle under regulations proposed by the Government. 

Green MP and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage is proposing establishing a regulated stewardship scheme for some "priority products". 

It would mean companies that produce tyres, agrichemicals, refrigerants, e-waste, farm plastics and packaging would be responsible for reducing their products' environmental impact. 

New Zealand only has voluntary stewardship schemes under the Waste Minimisation Act. The Government is now seeking feedback on whether it should introduce a mandatory one.  

"Well-designed product stewardship schemes ensure that those making, selling and using products all help take responsibility to recover the materials and avoid them ending up in landfills," Sage said on Friday. 

The Government argues the costs of ensuring products are sustainable is largely borne by the wider community - such as councils - and future generations.

It says a regulated scheme would "shift the costs of minimising harm from products away from the wider community and environment to product designers, producers and users". 

Establishing a scheme for tyres was part of Labour's coalition agreement with New Zealand First.

The Government says most voluntary schemes experience problems with participation.

Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage.
Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage. Photo credit: Newshub


"Non-members of a voluntary scheme with a levy can charge less for their product and have a market advantage over participating brand owners."

The Government says overseas schemes typically work by requiring product fees on entry to market and reallocating the funds to ensure products are recycled or safely treated.

The schemes are typically managed by a not-for-profit entity representing all producers of that product group. The role of the Government is to accredit, monitor and enforce the scheme. 

It's not yet decided what kind of penalties there would be for companies that don't adhere to the regulations, if they come into force, which will be co-designed with businesses and stakeholders. 

The Government has provided estimates of what it an effective nationwide recovery programme would cost - for refrigerants, there could be a 0.3 to 0.5 percent price increase. 

Before any regulations are passed, the costs and benefits will be fully spelled out and consulted on.

The Waste Minimisation Act requires the minister to provide the public with an opportunity to comment on the proposal, and it is now open for consultation

Greenpeace welcomed the proposal, but called for fishing nets and gear to be prioritised, as well as "nasty" disposable products that show up on beaches, including plastic straws, cutlery, stirrers and balloons.

The proposal follows the Government's announcement last month $40 million from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund will be allocated to fund projects that "convert waste". 

It banned plastic microbeads in certain wash-off products in June last year, and single-use plastic shopping bags were banned as of 1 July.