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Product stewardship and stakeholder participation in Solid Waste Management: a New Zealand study
Mia, Mohammad Nasir Uddin
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Product Stewardship (PS) is one of the strategies adopted to incorporate stakeholders’ participation for the minimisation of solid waste. The term PS is defined as a comprehensive programme implemented by the stakeholders - i.e. producers, brand owners, manufacturers and importers for managing their products at the end of their life. The prime objective of PS is to reduce the impact of the product on humans and the environment when it becomes waste. There are a number of PS schemes for white-ware, used oil, agrochemical products, refrigerants, paints, electronic goods and glass packaging products in New Zealand. The legal framework behind PS is the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 and all of these schemes are voluntarily implemented and managed by the stakeholders. So there is scope to enquire into the motivations of the stakeholders for implementing voluntary PS programmes as a means for end of life management of their products. The research also aims to investigate the stakeholders’ views about the problems, benefits and the perception for sustainability of the PS schemes. Mixed-method social research has been adopted for this study. Data were collected through online questionnaire surveys of local authority personnel and those from host business organisations of PS and waste management organisations. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the managers of the PS schemes. The semi-structured interview transcripts with the PS schemes personnel were analysed through content and thematic analysis. Stakeholder participation in the management of the PS schemes of New Zealand was found to be varied. Awareness about the product stewardship among the stakeholders was high; however the actual participation rates were identified as a problem that needs to be addressed. Stakeholder awareness and participation and adequate information campaigns seem to be the key and the apparent lack of trust in government agencies created through previous attempts to promote such schemes needs to be overcome. Although there are debates about the sharing of responsibility among the stakeholders, research participants unanimously emphasised the principles of ‘polluters pay’ and ‘producer responsibility’ for defining the concept of PS implemented in New Zealand. Industry-led PS schemes were found to be more fragile compared to the PS schemes implemented by the group of producers, brand owners, and importers. Financial drawbacks, lack of recyclable materials, lack of participation by the stakeholders as well as problems with free-riders have been identified as major challenges for the PS schemes in New Zealand. Lack of monitoring and control has been identified as a major loophole in the policy. Participants in this study generally shared the view that there was regulation in place but nobody to enforce it, and no ‘rewards’ for compliance or ‘punishment’ for non-compliance. In general, the PS schemes studied have been perceived to be environmentally sustainable by the respondents. However, the economic stability of some of the schemes is in jeopardy. It has been found that these PS schemes have a number of positive impacts on the national economy and developing into as an industry which has induced growth in some other sectors like freight, financial services, and recycling companies. In principle PS schemes should be sustainable and self-funding and not subsidised by the waste levy. Most of the respondents in this study were of the view that PS had to be mandatory for certain products and producers, brand owners, importers, and finally consumers should take the entire responsibility for the products. Government should take a proactive approach for identifying priority products, and possibly include a new provision for compulsory PS status if the majority of members of an industry agree to it. That way responsible industry participants could avoid being penalised by free-riders taking advantage of a scheme without contributing to it