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Reduce, reuse, recycle or regulate: the national packaging covenant and its application to the fruit and vegetable industry in Western Australia

Arbuckle, Trevor James (2005) Reduce, reuse, recycle or regulate: the national packaging covenant and its application to the fruit and vegetable industry in Western Australia. Professional Doctorate thesis, Murdoch University.

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The National Packaging Covenant is a self-regulatory agreement between industries in the packaging chain and all spheres of government for the management of packaging waste. The aim of this study is to determine whether the Covenant has the capacity to achieve the environmental objectives of the government in its application to the packaging of fruit and vegetables in Western Australia. This resolves into two major questions, whether self-regulation is the appropriate policy instrument and whether the Covenant can achieve the environmental objectives of the government.

The analysis proceeds as follows. A literature review of self-regulation and its relationship to Public Choice Theory to establish the theoretical foundations of the Covenant. A study of the implementation of voluntary agreements in Europe to determine alternative models and policies. A survey of growers in Western Australia to establish the extent of knowledge of the Covenant and support for its principles. An analysis of the Action Plans of Covenant signatories within the industry and an assessment of the response to the Covenant by Federal, State and Local Governments. Policy recommendations and suggestions for further research conclude the thesis.

The research establishes that the structure of the industry involves a majority of stakeholders (mainly growers) without effective representation, together with small well organised and dominant groups (mainly manufacturers and supermarkets). The Covenant has had little impact, has failed to engage the majority of stakeholders and is characterised by a general lack of commitment by dominant firms within the industry. This analysis supports the public choice explanation and the multi-dimensional approach to the research has produced consistent results.

The major finding of the research is that an effective voluntary agreement requires carefully targeted objectives, negotiations with all stakeholders, incentives for innovation and the certainty of penalties for non-compliance. Application of these key features to the fruit and vegetable industry in Western Australia may provide the model for the industry in Australia and a model for other industries.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Murdoch Business School
Supervisor(s): Harman, Frank
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