About product stewardship in Aotearoa 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.

There are two types of product stewardship schemes:

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

Taking responsibility for the products we use

Taking responsibility can include:

  • considering the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the use, re-use, recycling, or disposal of a product
  • designing a product that is long-lasting, which can be broken down into recyclable or reusable components
  • working collectively with a sector to design an effective framework to better design products and collect and upcycle them at end of life.

For example, the accredited Tyrewise tyre product stewardship scheme supports better management of end-of-life tyres. The scheme is designed to push end-of-life tyres away from landfill, stockpiling and illegal dumping, and pull tyres towards environmentally sound pathways.

Regulations come into effect in March 2024 to support product stewardship of tyres. Find out more about the regulations

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 PS.Schemes@mfe.govt.nz.

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