What is this “Product Stewardship” that everyone is going on about, I hear you ask. Product Stewardship is a strategy implemented for environmental management. It means that whoever is involved with all parts of the creation of a product takes responsibility for minimizing the product’s environmental impact throughout all stages of the products’ life cycle. This a long-term solution for waste production by shifting responsibility for the collection, transportation and management of these products away from local governments and manufacturers. Although it seems as though the greatest responsibility does lie with whoever has the most ability to affect the full life-cycle – which is usually the producer of the product – everyone needs to play their part. Yes, that includes you, and also us.

Producer Responsibility

Producers are usually responsible for designing, managing and financing a stewardship program. This can be done by offering their own plan and participating in plans with others (we’re all in this together!). Also, financing product waste management is covered by the producer as it shifts responsibility away from taxpayers and ratepayers and therefore requires minimum government involvement.

Shared Responsibility

Yes, the responsibility does fall mostly on producers, but we need to ensure that we’re continuing to do our bit, and here are some of our ideas as to how:

Retailers should only sell products from producers who are in compliance with stewardship requirements

Local governments should work with producers and retailers on educating the public about the stewardship programs

If you have the opportunity to design a product, design it so it can be broken down into recyclable or reusable components

Continue to put your glass bottles out for kerb side recycling and using recycling bins in public places

Purchase NZ-grown product

New Zealanders routinely interact with product stewardship schemes already, such as our day-to-day recycling habits, because we’re generally Tidy Kiwis. However, we could be doing more; only 35-40% of the bottles we purchase are recycled properly – the rest go to landfill.

The Future of Responsibility

To limit said problem about our recycling percentage, we could adopt a strategy that other countries have used: for all beverages bought, a small fee would be added to the cost of all beverage for the packaging. When the package is returned to the collection point after the beverage is consumed, the consumer would receive a small refund. This has proven to be a successful strategy around the world and it could be time for NZ to jump on board.

Don’t be Foolish

Conclusively, everyone needs to take responsibility and ensure products are managed safely throughout their lifecycle. Supplying, manufacturing, distributing, using, disposing and recycling should be regulated. The manufacturer of a product does not have complete control over every factor of a product’s lifecycle; no matter how “foolproof” the process is, each of us has the responsibility to not be foolish.

Please note that we do not claim to own any of the images featured on this page.