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Our clean and green New Zealand brand is an essential factor to the success of New Zealand exports. But in order to maintain premium positioning in overseas markets, New Zealand’s competitive advantage must be zealously protected. Our businesses must address their environmental issues head on. With each New Zealander dumping an equivalent of 1,500 kilograms every year (the OECD average is 560 kg/capita and even Australia’s average is lower at 1000 kg per capita), it is clearly an issue that we, ‘clean green New Zealand’, must address. The Ministry for the Environment asserts that this waste represents an inefficient use of our valuable resources.

An OECD 2007 review commended New Zealand on its efforts in recycling of municipal waste. Recycling had expanded from 20% in 1996 to 75% in 2004 of local councils providing kerbside collection of recyclable materials. But despite its praise, the OECD raised concerns that New Zealand continued to face substantial waste management challenges, particularly, due to its fragmented legislative and institutional waste management framework. Subsequent to this New Zealand brought in the Waste Minimisation Act 2008.

The green race is on. A growing number of consumers, businesses and governments are concerned about environmental issues and questions are being asked about the way we deal with waste and manage resource consumption. Enter 3R. 3R have taken up the challenge to provide innovative, practical and sustainable product stewardship programmes for industry and government to help meet growing demands for more sustainable business practices. Founded in 2004 by Graeme Norton and Bruce Emerson, the privately owned business sought to develop ideas and provide new innovative solutions for dealing with persistent and problematic waste streams. 3R’s major trading partners (especially in Asia) are strongly shifting their thinking and embracing coordinated action in addressing persistent waste issues. “We need to clean up our own act and to use this as an opportunity to drive our innovations into the international marketplace.” The winners will be those where the innovation of entrepreneurs and the policy settings of their government are in sync.

3R highlights that the main challenge for New Zealand is a lack of capacity to add value to recyclable materials collected. Typically we export our recyclables offshore for processing, mostly to developing countries. 3R believe it makes more sense to deal with our own recovered materials right here in New Zealand by collaborating and adding more capacity and technology. In approaching this challenge 3R seek to, over the next five years, expand existing product stewardship programmes, develop new ones, add processing technology and develop innovative end use markets for the materials collected. 3R also seek to export developed technologies to appropriate international markets.

Currently 3R are responsible for designing and managing two pilot product stewardship programmes in New Zealand, Resene PaintWise and Agrecovery. Both PaintWise and Agrecovery’s Rural Recycling Programme are accredited schemes in New Zealand are recognised by the Minister for the Environment. In addition, Resene has recently received the 2010 NZI Sustainable Business of the Year award for its resource use efficiency efforts. Through these programmes, they focus on finding ways to reduce and recover resources that are both practical and sustainable and allow brand owners to take responsibility for managing the environmental impacts of their products throughout their lifecycle. 3R builds nationwide programmes for brand owners and consumers that deliver innovative, professional and practical solutions.

3R customers include industries and individual businesses that are passionate aboutimproving New Zealand’s environmental footprint and acknowledge that responsibility for their products continues beyond the warranty period. 3R helped the Agrecovery Foundation become the vehicle through which New Zealand could address persistent waste issues in the primary sector. 3R designed and now manage the Agrecovery Rural Recycling programme that initially commenced with agrichemical container recovery in 2007, followed by silage wrap recycling and a chemical retraction programme in 2009. As such, Agrecovery is supported, contractually, by 55 of New Zealand’s leading crop protection, animal health, dairy hygiene and silage wrap brand owners.

3R also worked alongside Resene Paints Ltd since 2004 developing the world leading PaintWise programme. 3R embraces innovation, positive attitudes and encourages an environment where Resene are not constrained by conventional thinking. In the development phase of PaintWise it became apparent that no existing technology was available off the shelf to decant old paint from packaging, so they made their own! 3R continues to refine its decanting technology, to improve its operational performance and to explore opportunities to sell it in overseas markets. Resene and 3R jointly hold an International Patent on the PaintWise collection system.

The Agrecovery plastics shredding truck is another area of innovation. Internationally there were many examples of container recovery programmes in existence before Agrecovery commenced. Not a lot of innovation existed in the area of plastic container collection technology so, with the help of AXO, a New Zealand company, 3R designed their own specialist truck. This provides 3R with serious operational efficiencies, deferring the need for additional resources to cope with volume increases. Their online “Smart Member Services” system supports “farm to fork” evidencing of good agricultural practice to the marketplace. This system is highly regarded amongst “peer” programmes to Agrecovery internationally.

The Agrecovery truck is thought to be a world first with its state of the art mobile shredding technology, shreds containers into small plastic chips. The plastic chips are then recycled and remanufactured into a variety of uses including underground utility cable cover. The processing and appropriate reuse of collected plastic within New Zealand is a key part of the Agrecovery philosophy

Innovation in the development of end use markets for collected materials is another area of strength for 3R. PaintCrete™ is a unique application where recovered paint is used in cementitious applications. This has been developed in a partnership between Fletcher Building (Firth Industries, Golden Bay), Resene and 3R. 3R is working on proliferating its developed technologies and ideas in international markets where stewardship programmes have yet to be developed or where there is an opportunity for their systems and technologies.

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