Government to regulate environmentally harmful plastic packaging, tyres, e-waste

  • Hon Eugenie Sage

The Government is stepping up action to deal with environmentally harmful products – including plastic packaging, tyres and e-waste – before they become waste.

As part of the wider plan to reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in landfills, Associate Environment Minister, Eugenie Sage, today announced six products to be declared ‘priority products’ for the establishment of regulated product stewardship schemes under the Waste Minimisation Act. The products are:

  • Plastic packaging
  • Tyres
  • Electrical and electronic products (e-waste)
  • Agrichemicals and their containers
  • Refrigerants
  • Farm plastics.

“Regulated product stewardship helps put the responsibility for waste and what happens to products at the end of their useful life on manufacturers, importers, retailers and users, rather than on communities, councils, neighbourhoods and nature,” said Eugenie Sage.

“Old products that have reached the end of their life can be used to make something new, especially if they are designed better for reuse and recycling.

“Currently New Zealand has 15 voluntary accredited product stewardship schemes. These have had limited success in minimising waste for the target products.

“Government’s decision to require the establishment of regulated product stewardship schemes follows a public consultation in 2019 with public support for Government taking stronger action on these products.

“New Zealanders’ expectations about waste have changed. We need new approaches such as regulated product stewardship which will help reduce the environmental impacts of waste by ensuring that products and materials currently lost to landfill or pollution are recovered, reprocessed or re-used.  This encourages new businesses and jobs,” said Eugenie Sage.

The next step will be for the Ministry for the Environment to work with the manufacturers and retailers of the priority products and with stakeholders to co-design product stewardship schemes and regulations that will work for them and the environment.

Mandatory schemes for these problem products help level the playing field and ensure everyone involved in their design, production, sale and use contributes to diverting the materials in them from landfill at the end of their useful life. This helps to ensure proper materials recovery, re-use, recycling or disposal. Many countries overseas have product stewardship legislation. 

 Tyre product stewardship is an aspect of the New Zealand First Coalition Agreement and this announcement helps fulfil that.

Eugenie Sage made the announcement at E-Waste Services’s new e-waste and plastics processing facility in Porirua where she announced a $70,000 grant from the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund for E-Waste Services to do a feasibility study on reducing e-waste plastic going to landfill.

She also announced Auckland-based TechCollect would receive a $320,000 grant from the Waste Minimisation Fund to allow the company to build on its successful e-waste pilot programme, expand to more collection points and to design options for a regulated e-waste product stewardship scheme.

“TechCollect represents product stewardship in action. TechCollect reduces the amount of waste ending up in landfills and the amount of raw materials needing to be mined by collecting electronic goods, such as computers and TVs at the end of their life and recovering valuable materials” said Eugenie Sage.

Much of what is currently sent to landfills could be recycled, composted or reused. The Government is taking a leadership role in reducing waste through significant investment in waste minimisation.

“Earlier this month, as part of a wider plan to reduce the ever-increasing amount of rubbish ending up in New Zealand’s landfills, the Government announced it is to invest $124 million in new materials recovery and recycling infrastructure and expand the national waste disposal levy. The initiatives to be funded could include plastic recycling plants, weighbridges for improved waste data collection and improved equipment for recycling plants.

“Increased investment in waste reduction and resource recovery infrastructure will ensure New Zealand emerges from Covid-19 with a far better resource recovery and recycling system, creating jobs and incomes across New Zealand” said Eugenie Sage.