Government announcement supports lubricant packaging recycling plans

Photography by: 3R Group

The announcement declared plastic packaging a priority product under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008

3R Group, general manager innovation, Trevor Tutt managed the voluntary product stewardship project for lubricant containers 

Hundreds of tonnes of recyclable plastic from oil drums and other lubricant containers will no longer end up in landfill, following a recent announcement by the Government. The announcement, made by associate minister for the environment Eugenie Sage, declared plastic packaging a priority product under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008.

This means regulated product stewardship schemes for packaging with plastic resin types 1–7, including lubricant containers, will have to be created and then accredited by Government.

Those in the lubricant industry say they are already ahead of the curve, with key stakeholders having formed a voluntary product stewardship project in February 2018 to tackle the estimated 4.5 million lubricant containers discarded each year in New Zealand.

Trevor Tutt of 3R Group, who managed the project, says they welcome the announcement.

"This fully supports the work stakeholders have been doing to create a product stewardship scheme for lubricant packaging," he says.

Product stewardship sees importers, producers, and retailers accept responsibility for reducing a product’s environmental impact, particularly at the end of life by ensuring they are reused, repurposed, recycled, or properly disposed of.

Regulated product stewardship allows for the removal of ‘free-riders’—those currently unwilling to play their part in looking after their products at end of life. Z Energy sustainability manager Gerri Ward also welcomed the announcement. 

"We’ve worked with our industry partners for over two years to create a scheme that can manage the collection and recycling of lubricant oil bottles that considers a whole of life cycle approach.

"The announcement declaring plastic packaging as a priority product gives us the ​​confidence to progress the scheme. Z Energy currently operates New Zealand’s biggest privately funded, public place recycling scheme. We look forward to be able to facilitate the recycling of lubricant oil bottles in the near future."

Declaring packaging a priority product should level the playing field by removing free-riders, as the entire industry should have to participate in regulated stewardship schemes for the various packaging types, Trevor says.

"This is as opposed to voluntary schemes where free-riders impact on the effectiveness of a scheme." While a small number of the containers, mostly drums, are currently recycled, the majority go to landfill, despite the packaging mostly being made of highly recyclable plastic (HDPE—plastic resin code 2). 

"The problem is the level of contamination from the residue left inside when they are empty," Trevor says. The project working group recently completed the design phase of a stewardship scheme, which mirrors the accreditation requirements for a mandatory product stewardship scheme, he says.

Stakeholders who have worked on scheme design at various stages include Aegis Oil Co, Allied Petroleum Ltd (Mobil Lubricants), Castrol NZ Ltd, Farmlands Co-Operative Society Ltd (Gulf Oil), Oil Intel Ltd (Total Lubricants), Penrite Oil NZ Ltd, TransDiesel Ltd (Shell Lubricants), Valvoline NZ Ltd, and Z Energy. ​ 

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