Survey results show massive support for business initiatives to reduce waste

By Phil Crawford

Kiwis want businesses to take responsibility for reducing Aotearoa’s growing waste problem, according to survey results released by the Sustainable Business Network (SBN).

A massive 96% of respondents thought it was important that products were made of materials that could be repaired, reused or recycled. Furthermore, most thought businesses should take a product back when it reached the end of its life so it could be reprocessed rather than thrown away.

“That’s called product stewardship,” says SBN’s General Manager Projects and Advisory James Griffin.

“In simple terms it’s all about businesses taking responsibility for the products they make and sell, from design to end of life, so they’re not ending up in landfill. That can help businesses build better relationships with their customers, make them more sustainable and save money. These are huge benefits, which are more important than ever in the post-Covid economy.

“Introducing product stewardship into your business provides a foundation step to creating a circular economy.”

In a circular economy resources are never abandoned to become waste. Products are designed to be safe and easy to manage in cycles of production and reproduction.

Every year New Zealanders send around 2.5 million tonnes of waste to landfill which equates to over a tonne of rubbish per household.

“That’s bad for the environment, it’s costing our country millions of dollars every year, contributing to our carbon emissions and it’s a shocking waste of valuable resources,” says James.

Today SBN is launching a nationwide product stewardship campaign promoting businesses that offer end of life solutions for their products and encouraging others to do the same. The campaign is being run in collaboration with Fuji Xerox, 3R Group, Inzide Commercial and Abilities Group. Financial support for the project has been received from the Waste Minimisation Fund, which is administered by the Ministry for the Environment.

At the end of July, the government announced it is making product stewardship mandatory for six ‘priority products’ including tyres, e-waste and packaging.

“That’s good news, but it’s vital that businesses across all sectors are part of the solution to our country’s growing waste problem. That’s the focus of our campaign,” says James.

“The first question businesses need to ask is: ‘What happens to this product at the end of its life? Support businesses that are providing you with a solution, not a problem.”

One such New Zealand business is Fuji Xerox. “Our company has been running a government-accredited product stewardship scheme since 2015 to help reduce our environmental footprint. Last year alone this programme diverted more than 925 tonnes of waste from landfill,” says Managing Director Peter Thomas.

Fuji Xerox printers are designed for durability, disassembly and remanufacturing. At the end of life, the machines are either refurbished, or dismantled and harvested for parts. Remaining materials are recycled with carefully screened industry partners.

“Our programme was started to reduce waste to landfill and recover valuable materials for reuse and proper recycling. It’s now a point of difference and something our customers increasingly expect,” Peter says.

Meanwhile Inzide Commercial has diverted 330,000 kilograms of waste from landfill by remanufacturing old carpet tiles and giving them a second life.

Managing Director Steve Aschebrock says: “We’re definitely making a difference and now we need businesses across all sectors to join us. Product stewardship is the answer to our landfill problems. At the same time, it could support a thriving recycling industry.”

Over the past 16 years 3R Group has helped design and manage schemes for both individual businesses and industry groups, enabling them to reduce their environmental impact and improve resource efficiency. They include Resene PaintWise™, Agrecovery™ Rural Recycling, The Packaging Forum and Tyrewise™.

Marketing and Client Engagement Manager Toni Bye says: “These schemes create economic benefits such as protecting market access, employment opportunities, attracting new customers, and innovation in developing new products from what would otherwise be wasted materials”.

Apart from the six ‘priority products’ recently announced by the government, product stewardship is voluntary in New Zealand. Schemes can be accredited by the Minister for the Environment.

A new Aotearoa Product Stewardship website shows businesses how to get involved and hosts a directory listing those with product stewardship schemes: www.SBNproductstewardship.org.nz