About product stewardship in New Zealand

We all need to help reduce the impacts of manufactured products on our environment. When a producer, brand owner, importer, retailer or consumer accepts responsibility for reducing a product’s environmental impact, we call this product stewardship.

Product stewardship helps us transition from a linear to a circular economy

New Zealand currently has a ‘linear’ economy. This involves taking resources, making products, then discarding the products when there is no longer use for them.

We are now making the shift to a circular economy. With this approach, we do not dispose of, or discard used goods and products as a waste product. Instead, we return them to the system through reuse, repair, repurposing or recycling.

A circular economy reduces the impacts of waste and resources have greater social and economic value.  

linear circular economy

The one-directional (linear) life cycle of a product from natural resources is Take-Make-Dispose-Waste.

  • Technical and biological materials are mixed up. 
  • Energy is from finite sources.

The circular (continuous) economy cycle is Make-Consume-Enrich for biological mateials and Make-Use-Return for technical materials.

  • Energy is from renewable sources.
  • Technical and biological materials are separated. 

Product stewardship

‘Product stewardship’ is one example of how regulations in the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 (WMA) can be used to reduce linear resource use.

Product stewardship is where producers, brand owners, importers, retailers, or consumers participate in an accredited product stewardship scheme which reduces the harm caused by products at end-of-life and supports the recovery of raw materials that are normally lost when these products become waste.

Product stewardship can be voluntary or regulated:   

  • Voluntary product stewardship schemes are for products that have not been declared ‘Priority products’ by the Minister for the Environment, but still represent an opportunity to reduce environmental impacts and recover valuable raw materials.
  • Regulated product stewardship schemes are for products that have been declared ‘Priority products’ by the Minister for the Environment and are covered by regulations in the WMA which restrict the sale, management, and disposal of these products.

Taking responsibility for the products we use

Taking responsibility can range from:

  • responsible disposal or recycling of a product
  • designing a product which can be broken down into recyclable or reusable components.

For example, the proposed regulated product stewardship scheme [Tyrewise] supports better management of end-of-life tyres. The scheme will push end-of-life tyres away from landfill, stockpiling and illegal dumping, and pull tyres towards environmentally sound disposal pathways.

In the proposed regulation, participants (such as organizations, groups, or individuals involved with the collection, disposal, and treatment of end-of-life tyres) must register with Auto Stewardship New Zealand (ASNZ).

A mandatory fee is applied to all pneumatic rubber tyres imported or manufactured in New Zealand, replacing existing ad-hoc disposal fees. This fee funds the scheme including the safe disposal and recovery of raw materials found in tyres.

Government accreditation

Many New Zealand organisations and individuals participate in one or more product stewardship schemes that are Government accredited.

Find out more

For further information on the Ministry’s product stewardship work programme email PSAccreditation@mfe.govt.nz.

For further information on circular economy see the Circular economy accelerator website and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website.