Manufacturers and retailers would be more responsible for minimising waste on products including tyres, iPhones, and everyday meal packaging under a Government proposal released today.
Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage released a consultation document for public feedback, which has been welcomed by Greenpeace and Local Government NZ.
The proposal is to design waste out of the system by moving from a "throw-away culture" (take–make–dispose) to a circular one (make–use–return).
This would be done through regulated product stewardship under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 (WMA).
"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.
Such schemes are currently voluntary, and Sage moved to assuage concerns that a mandatory scheme would lead to higher consumer prices, saying a well-designed scheme should ease the impact.
Estimates for nationwide recovery programmes showed extra costs were low: $5 per new tyre, $2 for a domestic fridge or $133 on a commercial refrigerated truck, and 36 cents per agrichemical container.
The six priority products in the document are tyres, electrical and electronic products, agrichemicals and their containers, refrigerants and other synthetic greenhouse gases, farm plastics and packaging.
A scheme for tyres is part of the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement, and today's proposals were welcomed by NZ First environment spokeswoman Jenny Marcroft.
"This means that millions of tyres are stockpiled across New Zealand, leaking contaminants into the ground, and posing a major fire hazard," Marcroft said.
Local Government NZ president Dave Cull said it was time for a mandatory scheme.
"The New Zealand public are subsidising waste producers who churn out cheap, largely unrecyclable packaging, plastics, e-waste and other materials which have a limited future in a circular economy."
Greenpeace senior campaigner Steve Abel said a new scheme could see 90 per cent of beverage bottles diverted from landfill and kept out of the oceans.
Feedback is sought until October 4, and the Government and stakeholders, including businesses, will then design more detailed product-by-product guidelines.
The scheme could mean that retailers selling mobile phones and laptops would have to think about what happened to those products when they died.
Farmers could be responsible for supporting a scheme for collecting agrichemicals to reuse them, or food outlets could be required to offer a small refund to incentivise customers to return their single-use plastic packaging to then be recycled.
Penalties for non-compliance would be under the Waste Minimisation Act.
Sage said the new scheme could lead to an economic windfall.
In the US, for example, an estimated US$22 billion in gold was thrown out in electronic waste in 2016.
"Many products and materials presently lost to landfill could be recovered and reused throughout the economy creating new business opportunities and new jobs," Sage said.
"One example is reprocessing 'waste' plastic bottles back into food packaging, which creates less need for imports on new plastic flake for bottle manufacture."
She said the take-make-dispose model treated resources as free and disposable.
"Regulated product stewardship is a step towards changing that and to designing waste out of production ... [putting] responsibility on product manufacturers, importers, retailers and users, rather than on communities, councils, neighbourhoods and nature."
Draft regulations are expected to begin to be released for consultation next year.