Conservationist says government must focus on supply chain for waste reduction

The government’s ideas to reduce waste were presented as a band-aid and a missed opportunity.

Photo file.
Photo: 123RF

He wants public comments on his new waste strategy.

New Zealand is one of the biggest producers of waste per person in the world – we each send three-quarters of a ton each year, and it’s getting worse.

Waste accounts for 4% of climate gas emissions in this country and nearly a tenth of our biogenic methane, and the Commission on Climate Change has set a target of reducing waste-related biogenic methane emissions by 40%. by 2035.

The government has released its consultation document to try to address this issue, committing to build a circular economy by 2050 and set waste reduction targets by 2030.

But Sue Coutts of the Zero Waste Network said the plan lacks the bold steps needed to stop companies from generating unnecessary products in the first place.

“For the moment, this document seems to focus on the treatment of the material at the very end of its life.

“So you know, ‘pick up some more garbage’, ‘put things in the right trash’, and that’s really not going to get us where we need to go.

“We need to move up the supply chain right away and start influencing the types of products produced and how they are distributed to us.”

The government is focusing on six priority areas for “product stewardship” – making producers responsible for the end of life of their products.

No legend.

Photo: Minister of the Environment

These include tires, plastic packaging, electronics, agrochemicals and their containers, refrigerants and agricultural plastics.

Coutts said that list needs to be significantly expanded.

“Right now, someone can put a package on the market today and [tomorrow] recyclers are like “Oh man, what do we do with this?” “.

“And if you go to a producer and you say, ‘we need you to change the system’, they’re like ‘it might take us three or four years to be able to do that.’

Coutts wanted the government to commit to creating an entity to work with producers, recyclers, local and central authorities to achieve zero waste.

Harry Burkhardt, managing director of Packaging New Zealand – which represents big manufacturers like Fonterra and Tetra Pak – said product management was far from a silver bullet.

“If the government wants to put [product stewardship] in, [they can] fill their boots.

“But we don’t think that’s going to change the dial, the responsibility actually lies with all of us. [just] the producers of the packaging are also the users of the packaging, and it is also the regulatory framework in which this packaging is used. “

Burkhardt said society and consumers might balk at the rising costs of truly considering the product lifecycle.

He said the compromises needed to engage in the circular economy were not sufficiently addressed in the consultation document.

WasteMINZ’s has over 1000 members from across the waste industry including recyclers, landfill operators and local government.

Its chief executive, Janine Brinsdon, said the document’s most exciting novelty was the broad commitment to the circular economy.

“If we can start getting MBIE and MPI and some of these other whole-of-government agencies and departments to think about the circular economy, then that’s new.

“It would be incredibly powerful and exciting.”

Green Party MP Eugenie Sage, who was Associate Minister of the Environment in the previous legislature, said good progress was made then in banning single-use plastic bags and microbeads in cosmetics. It has stepped up work on tires, e-waste and the launch of a beverage container return program.

She wants efforts to build on that work accelerated – including a nationally standardized recycling program, and plans to ban food and organic waste from most landfills by 2030.

“In Christchurch, we have had curbside collection of organic and green waste for about a decade that is being composted, and there is a high demand for this compost.

“We can help solve nitrate water pollution through the use of synthetic fertilizers by using more composting – and that involves municipalities collecting green waste and leftover food.”

The consultation will last six weeks until November 26, 2021.

What are the product stewardship programs?

Responsible product stewardship programs mean the responsibility and cost of a product’s lifecycle and stay with manufacturers, importers, retailers and users, rather than falling on communities, boards and nature.

Internationally, responsible product stewardship programs are important tools for the transition to a circular economy.

The programs generally operate by requiring the payment of a royalty when a product first enters the market. The charges are held in a fund and used to ensure that the products are recycled or treated safely as part of the disposal. Some regimes require retailers and others to take back products or packaging.

The report said the government was looking to improve legislative support for plans.

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