What is Product Stewardship?
The New Zealand Product Stewardship Council use the following definition:
Product Stewardship is the act of minimizing health, safety, environmental and social impacts, and maximizing economic benefits of a product and its packaging throughout all lifecycle stages. The producer of the product has the greatest ability to minimize adverse impacts, but other stakeholders, such as suppliers, retailers, and consumers, also play a role.
Product stewardship seeks to ensure that those who design, manufacture, sell, and use consumer products take responsibility for reducing negative impacts to the economy, environment, public health, and worker safety. These impacts can occur throughout the lifecycle of a product and its packaging, and are associated with energy and materials consumption; waste generation; toxic substances; greenhouse gases; and other air and water emissions.
In a product stewardship approach, manufacturers that design products and specify packaging have the greatest ability, and therefore greatest responsibility, to reduce these impacts by attempting to incorporate the full lifecycle costs into the cost of doing business. There are two related features of Product Stewardship policy:
(1) shifting financial and management responsibility, with government oversight, upstream to the producer and away from the public sector; and
(2) providing incentives to producers to incorporate environmental considerations into the design of their products and packaging.
Stewardship can be either voluntary or required by law (mandatory). In NZ, mandatory product stewardship can only be enacted if a product is made a priority product under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008.
Product Stewardship is the term used in the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 and is intended to:
encourage (and, in certain circumstances, require) the people and organisations involved in the life of a product to share responsibility for—
(a) ensuring there is effective reduction, reuse, recycling, or recovery of the product; and
(b) managing any environmental harm arising from the product when it becomes waste.
What is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)?
The terms Product Stewardship and Extended Producer Responsibility are used interchangeably in New Zealand; although in other countries EPR may refer to a mandatory type of product stewardship that includes, at a minimum, the requirement that the producer’s responsibility for their product extends to post-consumer management of that product and its packaging.
How product stewardship schemes work?
Under a product stewardship scheme, any party involved in the life of a product (e.g., a producer, brand owner, importer, retailer or consumer) accepts responsibility for reducing the product’s environmental impacts. For producers, this may mean designing products so they can be broken down into recyclable or reusable components. For retailers and consumers it may mean taking an active role in the responsible disposal or recycling of a product.
In a product stewardship scheme some or all of the environmental costs from a product (e.g., inefficient resource use or disposal costs) are included in the product’s price. The consumer pays for product stewardship in the price of the product they choose to buy. Without product stewardship, the costs of the environmental impact from a product are carried by society (e.g. rate and taxpayers) and the environment rather than by the consumer or producer.
What is a Container Deposit Scheme? (a.k.a Cash for Containers)
A container-deposit scheme is a form of product stewardship which requires collection a monetary deposit on soft-drink, juice, milk, water, alcoholic-beverage, and/or other reusable packaging at the point of sale. When the container is returned to an authorized redemption centre the deposit is partly or fully refunded to the redeemer (presumed to be the original purchaser). It is a deposit-refund system.
Container deposit schemes can also be called bottle-deposit schemes.
For 2017, we are campaigning for a container deposit scheme under the name "Cash for Containers".
Container-deposit schemes may be introduced for several reasons, as they:
- encourage recycling and complement existing kerbside recycling programs,
- reduce energy and material usage for containers
- specifically reduce beverage container litter along roads, in lakes and rivers, and on other public or private properties
- provide a significant source of income to some poor individuals and non-profit civic organizations
- discourage the purchase of the products by raising their initial price,
- extend the usable lifetime of landfills
- protect children and animals by reducing the likelihood of glass lacerations
A container deposit scheme could be re-introduced to NZ under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008, which has provision for the introduction of regulation such as deposit – return schemes.
Product stewardship and the Waste Minimisation Act 2008
Under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008, the Minister for the Environment can declare a product to be a priority product. When this happens a product stewardship scheme must be developed and accredited. There are no products declared as priority products and no mandatory product stewardship schemes or other regulatory measures implemented under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008.
A number of voluntary schemes have been implemented, although these have shown limited success in reducing waste to landfill.
A list of accredited voluntary product stewardship schemes can be seen on the Ministry for the Environment website.
What products are recommended for priority product status and mandatory product stewardship intervention?
Through a number of consultations by government, councils and others, the following list of products is generally considered to most need mandatory product stewardship intervention:
- beverage containers
- plastic bags
- electronic and electrical equipment (including batteries)
- refrigerants and other synthetic greenhouse gases
- nappies and sanitary products