Don't panic about waste - until you have to

Don't panic about waste - until you have to

I should have known better when I was setting up a Fair Trading Act training session for a client last week using my seven-year-old notebook (Windows XP) for PowerPoint presentations. It overheard me saying: “This is the last time I’m using this notebook. I’ll have a different one next time.” Oh dear. All we got was a grainy version of my desktop – with no other notebook available for my Plan B memory stick, I had to revert to the Plan C paper version.

Which leads to the next issue: getting rid of the old notebook. As you know there is an awful lot of environmentally unfriendly stuff inside. And that leads me back to something you will hear a great deal about in the next few months: the Waste Minimisation Act 2007. I wrote about it a few times last year. The Act was passed in the last few weeks of the last Parliament, in a hurry as so often happens. And it will affect you – all of us – in a variety of ways. For resellers, the big impact will be the proposed product stewardship scheme for waste IT products.

The new Act sets up a system for classification of products which generate solid waste into two groups. The key focus is products whose waste can have a long-term adverse effect on the environment.

These products will be classified as ‘priority products’ and will be subject to compulsory product stewardship schemes. Eventually, it will be a criminal offence for ‘producers’ to dispose of priority products except in accordance with the scheme or regulations under the Act, and of course anyone who helps those producers can be convicted as a party. IT products are highly likely to be priority products, which is where you and your business associates come in.

You will be a ‘producer’ if you manufacture product (including OEM), or are a brand owner or importer of IT products. But there are a lot of unknowns, so don’t panic until you have to. First, the priority product list has not yet been decided. Also, we will need regulations for priority products and for product stewardship schemes in general, followed by specific regulations for specific schemes. And this is where you come in again: there will be a heap of public consultation on all of these issues. Unlike countries like the UK, where a difficult European directive has been adopted without a great deal of local industry input, the New Zealand Government is intending to consult with affected groups on regulations and on other issues which affect them, including issues which appear to have been adopted in other countries but which may need to be adapted to New Zealand conditions. This consultation process was written into the Act, partly as a result of lobbying on behalf of your industry.

So be ready for some homework in March. The Ministry for the Environment will be sending out consultation papers on which products should be selected as priority products, what the draft general regulations for product stewardship schemes should be, and proposed regulations for those schemes. Please join in industry group discussions – it’s your licence to moan if you don’t like the outcomes!

Ignore the waste minimisation consultation at your peril: it’s an important time to be involved in the future of your industry. And to keep ahead of a game that could be very costly for all of us.

Rae Nield is a solicitor specialising in marketing law. This article is intended for general information, and should not be relied on as specific legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for advice relating to your own specific legal problems. Rae Nield can be contacted at

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