Govt to phase out more single-use and problem plastics

Environment Minister announces phase out of seven single-use plastics.

Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage has announced new plans to phase out more single-use and problem plastics to reduce waste.

The proposals are to phase-out some hard-to-recycle PVC and polystyrene packaging and oxo-degradable plastic products, and seven single-use plastic items, including plastic straws, drink stirrers, produce bags, tableware (e.g. plastic plates, bowls, cutlery) and non-compostable fruit stickers.

These proposals are part of a consultation document ‘Reducing the impact of plastic on our environment’ launched today.

“Plastic has become one of our generation’s greatest environmental challenges,” said Sage.

“New Zealanders want urgent change in the area of plastics. We saw that with the support for banning single use plastic bags, which has meant 1.1 billion fewer plastic bags ending up in landfills or the ocean.”

The proposals include provision for people who need straws due to a disability, so that they can still access them.

The Associate Minister made the announcement at an event in Auckland to kick start ecostore’s bottle recall scheme, which is being supported by a $200,000 grant from the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund.

As part of its proposal the  government has opened  public consultation on the phase out of certain hard-to-recycle plastics and seven single-use plastic items.

It has also released its response to the report “Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand” by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Juliet Gerrard in December 2019.

Sage said today’s announcement of the government’s response to “Rethinking Plastics” and the release of the “Reducing the impact of plastic on our environment” consultation document built on the significant progress in reducing waste over the last three years.

“Our vision is to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and transition to a future with on-shore resource recovery infrastructure and high performing kerbside recycling systems critical to addressing our rubbish record on waste.”

Packaging body welcomes phase-out, with caution

The Packaging Forum has welcomed the government’s latest move to phase-out difficult to recycle and unnecessary plastic packaging.

However, the Forum’s Independent Chair Rob Langford cautions that great care must be taken to avoid any unintended consequences caused by producers and retailers moving to other packaging types such as a mass shift to compostable packaging without standards, labelling and end-of-life solutions being in place.

“It’s good to see there is a long consultation period for this and we’ll certainly be part of the conversation on behalf of our members,” Langford said.

The Packaging Forum, with more than 200 members, is New Zealand’s biggest member-based organisation representing the depth and breadth of the packaging industry.

While compostable packaging can be viewed by the public as something of a ‘silver bullet’, Langford warns there are also challenges with it. “For manufacturers, there is no defined use-case for compostable packaging.

“There is no New Zealand standard as required by the organic certified composters and few commercial composters which will accept it due to contamination, and there are varying requirements for home compostability. This makes it difficult for consumers to identify how to dispose of it at end of life.”

To assist members, the Forum has a compostable packaging and a fibre-based packaging technical advisory group which is investigating solutions for these challenges to remove the barriers for compostable packaging across the supply chain, Rob says.

“We welcome the opportunity to submit during the consultation period. Our members will be able to offer their knowledge and know-how to help ensure we have the best possible outcome.”

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