New Zealand to ban a raft of single-use plastics by 2025

New Zealand will ban a raft of single-use plastics by 2025.
MURRAY WILSON/STUFF   

Single-use plastics such as plates, bags, cotton buds, drinking straws, fruit labels and some polystyrene products are to be banned in New Zealand.

The items will be phased out in three stages between late 2022 and July 2025, the Government has announced.

A new fund will also be launched to help find alternatives to plastics.

Environment Minister David Parker said the timing of the ban was intended to strike a balance between the public’s call for action and the need for businesses to seek alternatives.

“We’re encouraging businesses and people to find reusable options. We know alternatives are readily available including recyclable plastic or paper-based containers,” he said.

Parker said figures indicate New Zealanders are among the highest generators of plastic waste in the world, throwing away an estimated 159 grams of plastic waste each on an average day.

He said the 2019 plastic bag ban had been well supported by the public and businesses “and we know New Zealanders are ready to do more”.

The bans will phase out hard-to-recycle food and drink packaging made from PVC and polystyrene, as well as some degradable plastic products. Parker said the changes follow consultation with about 8000 individuals and businesses last year.

The changes were a Labour Party promise at the last election, and part of the co-operation agreement between the Labour and Green parties.

Items to be phased out are single-use plastics including drink stirrers, cotton buds, produce bags, cutlery, plates and bowls, straws and fruit labels.

“Phasing out unnecessary and problematic plastics will help reduce waste to landfill, improve our recycling system and encourage reusable or environmentally responsible alternatives,” Parker said.

The policy will remove an estimated two billion single-use items from landfills or the environment each year.

The ban will not extend to single-use cups, wet wipes, or some types of expanded polystyrene used to transport cold goods and protect large items.

 

New Zealanders are high generators of plastic waste, the Government says.
DAVID WHITE/STUFF

Parker said they were working with industry groups to develop a plan for those items, and expect to make a decision on them in 2022.

A new $50 million plastics innovation fund will open in November to ”help support projects that reimagine how we make, use and dispose of plastics”, the minister said.

The fund is intended to help find ideas and solutions to reduce plastic waste, and scale them up.

It is expected to attract applicants from research institutes and businesses as well as sector groups, communities, and Māori organisations, Parker said.

The Green Party’s waste spokeswoman Eugenie Sage welcomed progress on the phase-out of some hard to recycle plastics and some single-use plastics, but said more must be done.

Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges and the level of plastic pollution in the oceans is unacceptable, she said.

“Phasing out expanded polystyrene takeaway containers and single use items such as plastic produce bags, cutlery, and tableware by October 2022 is good for people and planet. It helps reduce plastic waste and pollution.”

But it is disappointing the Government had delayed a decision until mid-2022 on whether to phase-out expanded polystyrene used in packaging for large items and chill boxes, and has not yet acted to phase out so-called ‘flushable’ wet wipes containing plastic.

There was a big work programme ahead, and it required a collective effort by Government, businesses, scientists, innovators and households, Sage said.

“Government must lead and take clear and decisive action to drive change towards increased materials recovery, recycling and reducing plastic waste.”

University of Auckland physical chemistry professor Duncan McGillivray said the decision to ban certain problematic types of plastic from use is a sensible response to our growing awareness of the persistence of plastic waste in the environment.

“It is becoming clear that as plastic waste naturally degrades it spreads through land, air and especially water, and is extremely difficult to remove or treat especially as it breaks down into the smallest pieces – micro- and nano-plastics.”

While scientists are only beginning to understand the effects of this waste on sea life and on people, it is clear that so far the only reliable solution is to prevent the release of problematic plastic waste in the first place, he said.

Packaging New Zealand also welcomed the Government’s announcement on ‘problem plastics’, saying the industry appreciated the certainty and the funding available to develop alternatives.

President Harry Burkhardt said the industry is already showing significant innovation in a bid to reduce single-use plastics and develop the ‘circular economy’ and would welcome the government support.

The $50 million Plastics Innovation Fund is a good start, but a nationwide recycling standard would be the greatest way of reducing the amount of plastics going to landfill, he said.

“At the moment, local councils all have their own recycling rules and standards and this means far more packaging material ends up in landfill.

“New Zealand has poor recycling infrastructure and the ad hoc approach to recycling up and down the country has hampered the sector’s ability to do more in the resource recovery space.”

Packaging NZ also believes the Government should develop a national Packaging Strategy, rather than dealing with packaging solely as a producer of waste.

“We look forward to hearing more about the Government’s plans to tackle waste generated by our construction and demolition industries, which account for about 40 to 50 per cent of our total waste going to landfill.”

Stuff.co.nz. (2021, June 27). New Zealand to ban a raft of single-use plastics by 2025. Stuff. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/125574062/new-zealand-to-ban-a-raft-of-singleuse-plastics-by-2025

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