Product Stewardship

What is Product Stewardship?

Product Steward is the concept of manufacturers taking responsibility for their products through to end of life. By doing this, it’s hoped manufactures will design products that maximise resource efficiency and reduce long-term waste. In New Zealand, product stewardship is a core principle of central and local governments waste management strategy.

Designing out waste is not necessarily an approach that works for all sectors. Ready-mix concrete is ubiquitous in the built environment. It’s also highly perishable. The economic and environmental costs of under ordering mean the industry has a relatively small, but consistent level of waste.

In this case, the most practical approach is to capture this excess stream of high quality certified ready mix concrete and upcycle it into equally high-quality precast concrete products. These upcycled products are designed in such a way that they can be easily used over and over again. This is the Envirocon Product Stewardship approach. We’re New Zealand’s first and only construction-related product stewardship scheme accredited by the Minister for the Environment under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008.

How we do Product Stewardship

The Envirocon Product Stewardship Scheme provides a sustainable end-of-life management solution for high quality excess ready mix concrete. It is the only accredited construction-related scheme. The aim of the scheme is to eliminate all waste created through the concrete batching process – that is, wet waste ready mix concrete, washout fines, and wastewater. The Scheme specifically excludes demolition waste concrete.

Upcycling is a key principle of the Envirocon Scheme. Upcycling is about using surplus concrete to produce high quality, reusable precast concrete products. Envirocon achieves this by capturing wet concrete and turning it into the unique Interbloc and Stonebloc Modular Wall Systems. Through upcycling, Envirocon can halt the inflation of disposal costs, develop more efficient collection systems, and help create a more sustainable construction industry.

Envirocon is a collaboration of some of New Zealand’s leading ready mix concrete brands – Allied Concrete, Holcim Concrete, and Stevenson Concrete. New members and casual participants are always welcome. The involvement of members in this voluntary, comprehensive environmental initiative is a testament to their organisations commitment to sustainable growth and local communities. Developers, constructors, designers, and regulators can support the Envirocon Scheme by supporting its members.

Diagram depicting the benefits of product stewardship

Why Product Stewardship is Great in Construction

Concrete is made up of very carbon-intensive materials. The cement used in concrete is kiln dried, the kilns are often coal-fired. It is estimated that cement production alone contributes 10% of global emissions.

Concrete is essential to the infrastructure that supports modern civilization. As a result, an enormous amount of research has gone into how to make concrete more sustainable.

Within the NZ context, the primary approach to increasing the sustainability of concrete has been to substitute recycled materials in concrete production.

Using a small amount of crushed recycled concrete (<20%) and using fly ash to substitute cement are two of the most common approaches to concrete sustainability. Both these approaches are contained in the Environmental Choice NZ standard for green concrete.

Product stewardship offers a different approach – we argue the only truly sustainable approach.

We recognize that there is no easy fix to concrete sustainability, it is both essential and unsustainable. Our approach in this case is to eliminate waste, so we are maximizing resource use. We then use a design-led approach to creating products that can be reused over and over again. Product stewardship allows the embedded carbon footprint to be stretched over a longer life and more structures.

Product Stewardship in New Zealand

In 2008 the New Zealand Parliament passed the Waste Minimisation Act. The passing of the Act marked a change in approach to the regulation of waste and achieved broad political support.

The Act introduced the idea of Product Stewardship into the New Zealand regulatory framework. It allowed for both voluntary and mandatory schemes. Mandatory schemes are created through the designation of priority products by the Minister for the Environment. If a waste stream is designated a priority product all manufacturers, importers, and retailers of the designated product are responsible for the end of life management of that product.

Priority products are chosen based on the detrimental environmental effect of the product at the end of life, the volume of the waste stream, and the effectiveness of a product stewardship scheme in managing the waste stream. In short, the ready mix concrete industry meets all criteria.

The Envirocon Product Stewardship Scheme is an industry-based voluntary scheme. Our members have recognised that regulation in this area is a matter of when, not if. By being voluntary the Envirocon Scheme is able to offer an affordable, sustainable, regulatory proof solution.

Circular Flow showing (1) Envirocon offers a unique buyback option (2) Member's excess concrete (3) Delivered to Envirocon Collection Points (4) Envirocon Produces High Quality Precast Blocks

(Click for larger image)

"We had a small crisis at work, our loading bank for chip and residues was falling. The would stop our operation. The team at Interbloc gave us a solution that we could dismantle and rebuild our wall in 1½ days. The advice was good, the service prompt and the result was great. I would recommend Interbloc when you need a fast, stable wall for a competitive price."
Conrad Whittle
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