The government will phase out hard-to-recycle food packaging and some single-use plastics by the end of next year to clear the country of problematic plastics by July 2025.
File image of single-use plastics piling up in a trash can. Source: istock.com
Plastic leaks include hard-to-recycle food and beverage packaging made from PVC and polystyrene, as well as some degradable plastic products.
Disposable plastic items – including drink stirrers, cotton swabs, disposable bags, cutlery, plates and bowls, straws and fruit labels – are also being phased out.
It follows the government’s move to ban single-use plastic bags in 2019, reducing 1 billion plastic bags ending up in landfills or the sea.
“These plastics often end up in landfills as waste and pollute our soils, waterways and the ocean. Reducing plastic waste will improve our environment and ensure we live up to our clean, green reputation, ”Environment Secretary David Parker said in a statement today.
“Phasing out unnecessary and problematic plastics will help reduce landfill waste, improve our recycling system, and promote reusable or environmentally friendly alternatives.”
According to Parker, kiwis throw away an estimated 159 grams of plastic waste per person every day – making New Zealanders “one of the world’s largest waste producers”.
He says nearly 8,000 people and businesses responded to the government’s consultation last year, with the majority supporting the proposed changes. The new directive estimates that more than 2 billion single-use plastic items are removed from New Zealand landfills or the environment every year.
The phasing out of plastics will be carried out in three phases, beginning in late 2022 for items that are easier to replace with more environmentally friendly options like recyclable plastic or paper containers, Parker said.
“The timeline for phasing out strikes a balance between the public call for urgent action and the time it takes companies to adapt and find replacement products,” he said.
Parker adds that a public consultation has shown that more work is needed on disposable cups and certain types of expanded polystyrene used to transport cold items or to protect large items.
Environment Secretary David Parker. Source: 1 NEWS
“There is strong support for action on coffee cups and wet wipes. The government will work with industry and other stakeholders to develop a plan for these issues and we expect to see next steps in 2022. ”
Plastic straws are also a “particular area of concern,” he said, but more work is needed to ensure that they “do not adversely affect those who have to use them”.
Measures to minimize waste and problem plastics are part of the cooperation agreement between the Labor and Green parties.
Parker also launched a $ 50 million plastics innovation fund to support projects that re-think how New Zealanders make, use, and dispose of plastics to protect our landscapes and marine life.
“The fund will help harness our collective ingenuity to find ways to use less plastic and make what we use recyclable for the good of the environment – while creating jobs and supporting economic recovery. “
The fund is expected to attract a wide range of applicants when it opens in November 2021.
“We are bringing Aotearoa New Zealand one step closer to a low-waste and low-emission circular economy.”
Addressing the plastics problem also requires change across borders, says Parker.
“New Zealand supports coordinated global action through discussions on a new global agreement at the United Nations Environment Assembly in 2022.”