A grant from The Packaging Forum has helped the Far North Environment Centre greatly reduce the volume of compostable and recyclable material from the Kaitāia Market going to landfill.
10 August 2021
The Centre has used their recent grant of $9,500 to provide bins for food waste, compostable packaging and recyclables at the market since the beginning of July.
The Centre’s Plastic Free Kaitāia Co-ordinator Waikarere Gregory says they began the project to coincide with Plastic Free July and collected two 60l bags of compostable material at one market alone, despite the poor weather. Previously only a general rubbish bin was available.
“It’s been a great success, reducing waste in the council landfill bins by up to 75% each week,” she says.
The compostable material collected from the market goes towards creating compost by KaitāiaCycle a collaboration with Good Life Projects (which works with youth and adults with intellectual disabilities to create bountiful gardens), CBEC Ecosolutions and Earthcare, Waikarere says.
The Centre identified the need for bins after running a trial at the market and found a strong zero-waste contingent, with most stalls using compostable or recyclable packaging. The trial also found many members of the public were keen to reduce waste to landfill, but a lack of bins meant compostable or recyclable material was going in general rubbish bins, she says.
“We’re also going to work with stallholders to help them move toward better packaging options that can be either recycled or composted, and ideally work towards a reusable system.”
The Centre took a zero-waste approach to the entire operation with the reusable bin liners sewn by local group Anō Anō Clothing Rescue, from old shower curtains, flags and material, Waikarere says.
She also uses an e-bike and trailer, on some days, to transport some of their gear to and from the market.
“We are currently looking for someone to employ to oversee the bins, but in the meantime are managing a roster system with our current contractors,” she says.
The Packaging Forum CEO Rob Langford says the Forum also supplied the Centre with a bin stand and signage from the Litter Less Recycling More project it was involved with to help make the bins more visible and prevent them toppling in high winds.
“We thought this was a great project because it not only keeps recyclable and compostable material out of landfill but helps with educating the public around putting waste in the right bins and not just choosing landfill as the default option,” he says.
The country’s largest packaging industry group has welcomed Government’s move to phase-out difficult-to-recycle and some single-use plastics.
29 June 2021
The Packaging Forum CEO Rob Langford says the Forum, and its Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme (SPRS), had largely supported the proposal during its consultation period, and were pleased to see Government take the next step.
“There was a long consultation period, as there should be, and it’s great to see Government moving forward. It’s essential there are end-of-life solutions in place for packaging and in the case of the plastic types being phased out that is not the case.
“Oxo-degradable plastics are a prime example as they are neither recyclable or compostable,” Rob says. He added that it’s important to note bio plastics (often referred to as ‘compostable plastic’) will also be part of the single-use plastic item phase-out.
The Forum cautioned against the phase-out causing unintended consequences. As industry moves to alternative materials there must also be the development of recycling, reuse and other end-of-life solutions for these materials, as well as consideration around food safety, Rob says.
“We are therefore urging care when choosing alternatives,” he says.
Rob pointed out alternative materials, such as compostable and fibre (paper and cardboard) packaging also have challenges, especially when we consider New Zealand’s focus on a low-emissions and zero waste economy.
“Our Compostable Technical Advisory Group is currently developing a use-case for New Zealand and is busy consulting with industry and stakeholders,” Rob says.
Moving to alternative materials is a major undertaking for a lot of manufacturers, importers and retailers, he says.
The Forum’s submission during the consultation period called for a full cost benefit analysis, which follows Treasury guidelines, to assess impact on business, food safety, shelf life and cool-chain (particularly for export items).
“That’s where the $50 million Plastics Innovation Fund announced by Government is therefore very welcome and will be vital in helping industry transition and overcome challenges. We are watching with interest to see how those funds will be allocated and excited to see what innovative solutions are developed as a result.”
By late 2022:
MEDIA RELEASE: A recent survey of compostable packaging stakeholders by The Packaging Forum shows that between them they have completed over 100 compostable packaging projects in the last five years, with another 81 in progress and 85 more planned.
3 February 2021
Yet there has been little progress made on developing a viable end-of-life solution for compostable packaging at the scale New Zealand requires. This according to Kim Renshaw of Beyond the Bin, who is project manager for The Packaging Forum’s Compostable Technical Advisory Group (CTAG).
What’s needed for progress to happen, she says, is clear in the top six requirements identified by stakeholders:
The CTAG is taking a collaborative approach in laying the groundwork for these to be developed and funded, she says.
“The next step is to gain an understanding of the volume of compostable packaging in the New Zealand market, and to clarify what level of investment and infrastructure is needed.”
As there is no existing data on this, the CTAG’s next survey will be asking manufacturers and importers to supply data to inform that understanding. Data will be aggregated to protect commercial sensitivity, Kim says.
“As public opinion has turned against plastics, many importers, manufacturers and brands have turned to compostable packaging as a promising solution. However, all packaging types need to end up in the right system at the end of their life to avoid causing unintended harm.”
“We’re working to overcome some complex problems such as the risk of contamination of compostable packaging with other materials, the ratios of compostable packaging that can be accepted by composters compared to other compostable material, what collection infrastructure could look like and how it could be funded,” she says.
The Forum recognises how important it is to overcome challenges and get systems in place for an increasingly popular packaging choice and will be working with all stakeholders to achieve this.
Ultimately the purpose of this work is to support Government in developing the right regulations for compostable packaging in New Zealand, ensuring the solution provides the best outcome for consumers and the environment, Kim says.
The Forum is inviting the following stakeholders to register to participate in a work programme and receive information:
To register as a stakeholder and keep up to date with progress, get in touch with The Packaging Forum here.
MEDIA RELEASE: Taranaki residents will be able to recycle their soft plastics for the very first time, with collection bins being made available at Countdown Hāwera, Stratford, Spotswood, New Plymouth Central, The Valley and Vogeltown from 19 October.
16 October 2020
This latest expansion will mean there will be over 100 locations offering a drop-off service for soft plastic bags and wrappers throughout New Zealand from Taranaki up to Northland and around the Wellington region.
Lyn Mayes, Scheme Manager says: “It is fantastic to bring soft plastic recycling to the Taranaki district for the first time. Based on experience shoppers will recycle more than 25 tonnes of soft plastic or 4 million bags or wrappers every year.
“Countdown will bale the soft plastic at the back of their stores and transport it back on their returning store delivery vehicles to Auckland where it will then be sent to Future Post to be turned into plastic posts.
“Future Post has more than doubled its processing capacity thanks to new sales with local and central government departments and industry. We are doing what we promised and expanding the number of stores and our geographic coverage so that we can meet Future Post’s demand for soft plastic materials. Everything we collect is recycled here in Aotearoa.”
The Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme has over 80 members representing around 74% of the soft plastic materials consumed annually. The scheme pays for the costs of collection through to processing.
Countdown’s General Manager Corporate Affairs, Safety & Sustainability, Kiri Hannifin, says: “We’re working to extend the scheme to as many of our stores as possible, because we recognise the hugely important role it plays in reducing waste to landfill. This is the very first time we will have soft plastics recycling available to our Taranaki customers and we’re really pleased to be able to offer a recycling option for packaging that would otherwise end up in people’s rubbish bins!”
Neil Holdom, New Plymouth District Mayor has welcomed the initiative: “This is a fantastic, forward-thinking partnership and a great example of Kiwi ingenuity in how to deal with those hard-to-recycle soft plastics. We’re on a journey to Zero Waste and we’re 100% behind projects that boost recycling and cut down what goes to landfill. It’s great to see Taranaki now in the Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme and I encourage all residents to use the collection bins at Countdown stores.”
This recycling service is 100% funded by industry members of the voluntary product stewardship scheme.
MEDIA RELEASE: New Zealand’s largest member-based packaging organisation has appointed its inaugural CEO.
1 October 2020
Rob Langford, who served as The Packaging Forum’s Independent Chair prior to his new appointment, took the reins as its first chief executive on 1 October 2020.
Rob says he’s looking forward to beginning his new role, which he believes will flow seamlessly from that of Independent Chair. “This is an exciting time for the future of sustainable packaging in New Zealand, one in which industry has the responsibility to lead and show the way.”
Adele Rose, who has been acting as the Forum’s interim General Manager, says Rob’s appointment comes at a time when there is ever-increasing pressure across society for businesses to become more sustainable. The Forum researches, creates and advocates for evidence-based sustainable packaging solutions.
“In the past few years the pace of change and level of engagement with Government, communities and other stakeholders has increased, making a full-time leadership role essential,” Adele says. “The Packaging Forum represents the depth and breadth of the industry, and its members are dedicated to finding sustainable solutions for their packaging.”
Rob brings decades of experience to the new role, including technical expertise and design development skills to solve complex issues, Adele says. He leads a team which already delivers two Government-accredited product stewardship schemes – the Glass Packaging Forum and Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme.
“The Forum also has a number of technical advisory groups working on end-of-life and circular economy solutions for various types of packaging, and labelling,” she says. “The appointment of Rob as our CEO will bring cohesion to all of our activities, some of which rely extensively on members who generously volunteer their time and expertise.”
Recent Government announcements declaring single-use plastic packaging a priority product under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008, and a proposed phase-out of hard-to-recycle plastics and some single-use plastic items, have helped accelerate work being done by the Forum.
“We certainly support these moves by Government as they align with our members’ commitment to better environmental outcomes for their packaging. However, it’s important for industry to have a voice in the decision-making process so its collective experience, know-how and expertise can help bring about the best possible outcomes.”
MEDIA RELEASE: With Future Post doubling its processing capacity, the Packaging Forum’s Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme will be adding 15 Countdown stores to the scheme’s collection network.
11 September 2020
From Monday 14th September, collections bins will return to Auckland Countdown stores in Orewa, Helensville, Henderson, Northwest, Northcote, Sunnynook, St Lukes, Three Kings, Beachlands, Mangere Mall, Manukau City Mall, Roselands and in Northland to Countdown Kaikohe, Paihia Central and Regent (Whangarei).
This expansion means that there are almost 100 locations now offering a drop off service for soft plastic bags and wrappers across Upper North Island and in the Wellington Region. This recycling service is 100% funded by industry members of the voluntary product stewardship scheme.
Chair of the scheme Malcolm Everts says: “This year despite the disruption caused by COVID-19 we have increased the number of stores and regions serviced by the scheme. This has been made possible because of the increased demand for our soft plastics from our New Zealand processing partners.”
“Future Post has more than doubled its processing capacity this year thanks to new sales with local and central government departments and industry. The more demand for the products manufactured from our soft plastic waste, the more we can and will collect for recycling.
“We encourage everyone that has access to one of our participating stores to drop off their clean and dry plastic bags and wrappers so we can recycle them.”
Chris Meyer, General Manager of Future Post says: “Forty-five tonnes of soft plastics were processed at our plant in July. That’s equivalent to around 7.5 million bread bags, chip packets, frozen food bags or toilet roll wrappers diverted from landfill. Our posts are now in vineyards, farms, parks and private land from Northland to Southland. We have added new products such as square posts, Vege Boxes for gardens, and parking stops to our range.”
Countdown’s General Manager Corporate Affairs, Safety & Sustainability, Kiri Hannifin, says: “It’s been fantastic to see more and more of our stores with their soft plastics recycling bins out for our customers and we’re really excited to see how quickly Future Post’s operations are growing.
“The more opportunities we can give our customers to recycle these sorts of plastics, the better. We’re working closely with the scheme to extend to even more stores in the coming months.
MEDIA RELEASE: The Packaging Forum welcomes Government’s latest move to phase-out difficult to recycle and unnecessary plastic packaging.
12 August 2020
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.
The Forum was reacting to the announcement by Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage today (12 August) that consultation would begin on the phase-out of a number of plastic products, such as straws, PVC food and beverage packaging, plastic tableware, and plastic cotton-buds among others.
Consultation would run until 4 November 2020.
“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,” Rob says. 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’, Rob 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.”
With recent regulation of plastic packaging as a priority product, all producers and importers of goods in plastic packaging will have to get on board with product stewardship. What does that mean for business? Rob Langford, Independent chair of The Packaging Forum explains.
4 August 2020
Business isn’t known for welcoming government regulation, but the news that plastic packaging will be regulated is cause for celebration by all of us who care about our impact on our environment.
That includes businesses already contributing to better environmental outcomes for their packaging and shouldering the cost through voluntary stewardship schemes. Regulation allows for the removal of ‘free-riders’ – businesses which have previously not participated.
Now all Importers, manufactures and brand owners whose goods use plastic packaging will have to contribute to schemes that address its environmental impact. So work begins designing what effective regulated product stewardship looks like in New Zealand. The Packaging Forum members are up for the challenge.
Where packaging already has a voluntary stewardship scheme, (such as The Packaging Forum’s Soft Plastic scheme), they can work to transition to a regulated model. With everyone on board, the opportunity to scale up the impact with more comprehensive solutions is exciting. For packaging types where no scheme exists (e.g. rigid plastic packaging), they will have to be designed.
We are looking forward to working on behalf of our members with the Ministry for the Environment, local government, the resource recovery sector and key community and industry groups on scheme co-design.
I believe there are clear criteria that contribute to success for a product stewardship scheme.
Whole of life cycle, circular approach
The most successful schemes don’t just deal with end-of-life solutions and aren’t just collection systems. They have whole life cycle approach. They encourage product design that removes unnecessary packaging and promotes materials which have a higher recycling value. Other aspects of the life cycle they can address are effective collection, processing infrastructure and demand for material with a high recycled content. In some cases, reusable or refillable packaging may be part of the answer.
Our Soft Plastic Recycling scheme highlights the importance of this approach. When popularity with consumers and collections quickly outgrew processing capacity, the scheme had to be temporarily suspended. New processors were found onshore who worked to develop end markets for their recycled products. The scheme is now back up and running in 74 locations across the North Island, and looking to expand further as new processing capacity develops.
Regulation simply sets the scene for solutions. Business will provide the mechanisms, infrastructure and innovation for them to be carried out. Business must lead the co-design of schemes in collaboration with local and national government, the resource recovery sector and key community groups.
Our Glass Packaging Forum scheme has shown that collaboration with key stakeholders for investment in pragmatic solutions can have a big impact. Our grant funding to bolster efficiencies in the South Island saw over 340% growth in the volume of glass returned for recycling through one processor alone between 2017 and 2019. It’s investment like this that has helped it reach a recovery rate of over 70% of container glass for recycling and reuse.
Easy for consumers
While there will always be people who choose not to recycle, the more convenient it is, the more likely they are to do it. Whether it’s access to kerbside recycling, clear and useful recyclability labelling, or colour-coded recycling bins in public places, consumer engagement is a must-have in any stewardship scheme.
We’ve seen what happens when there is too much reliance on overseas recyclables markets. A lack of onshore capacity left New Zealand and much of the world exposed and sending recyclables to landfill when other countries effectively shut the door. Taking responsibility for our own packaging onshore isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s an investment in employment opportunities and New Zealand’s economic resilience.
The right packaging choices protect our food, our goods, and us. Now we have an opportunity for those choices to keep our environment safer from harm too.
MEDIA RELEASE: Single-use plastic beverage containers, such as plastic bottles, are included in the Government’s latest announcement to tackle the country’s poor record on waste reduction, says The Packaging Forum Independent Chair Rob Langford.
30 July 2020
His comment is in response to Greenpeace’s statement shortly after the announcement they were disappointed, “the new scheme doesn’t tackle one of the country’s biggest plastic pollution problems – single-use drinks bottles.”
The Packaging Forum is the country’s biggest packaging industry member-based organisation.
The remarks follow the announcement by Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage that six product categories, including plastic packaging, have been declared priority products under the Waste Minimisation Act. This triggers the creation of regulated product stewardship schemes to manage these products throughout their lifecycle, especially at end of life through reuse, recycling or proper disposal.
Rob says single-use plastic beverage containers do fall under the category of ‘plastic packaging’ announced by the Minister. “It’s important to understand no regulated product stewardship schemes have yet been established for the multitude of packaging types which are affected.
“A container return scheme is being developed as a possible option for stewarding beverage containers, which I am involved in, but the group working on this is yet to report to the Ministry. The announcement made by Minister Sage was about what would be included in regulated stewardship schemes, not how they would be stewarded.”
The Forum had welcomed the announcement as regulated stewardship is a highly effective way of dealing with packaging and is the most significant move to date by a New Zealand government in the war on waste, Rob says.
“Successful product stewardship schemes are not just collections systems. They must address the entire lifecycle of packaging material – including product design that minimises waste, collection systems, labelling that is clear and meaningful for consumers, onshore recycling infrastructure, through to genuine and valuable use of recycled products. A circular, evidence-based and industry-led approach is critical,” he says.
The Packaging Forum set up soft plastics collections in 2015 and the scheme received accreditation as a voluntary product stewardship scheme under the Waste Minimisation Act in March 2018.
Chair of the scheme Malcolm Everts says that the collapse of global markets for mixed plastics forced a major re-set of the scheme in 2019 and this has been further influenced by COVID-19 limiting collections and processing for a period of time.
“Our scheme is focused on supporting local processors. Two years ago, there was no onshore processing of post-consumer soft plastics. Today there are two North Island plants Future Post in Waiuku and Second Life Plastics in Levin which are great examples of Kiwi ingenuity and we are increasing every month the tonnes which we send for recycling.
“With the expansion of their capacity we can now offer soft plastic recycling to around 60% of the population with drop off points across Auckland, Waikato, Northland, Bay of Plenty and Wellington. We will be adding more stores in more regions throughout the year.”
“As a voluntary scheme, we already have over 70% of industry by volume funding the recycling programme and membership has increased by 20% in the past year to 75 companies. We are also working with members on the design of their packaging, reducing creation of plastic packaging waste, and advocate using our “return to store” labelling system.”
“Scheme members’ levies fund collections from stores, quality checks, baling, transport to end markets and contribute to the processing costs as well. This is different from the traditional model where the processor pays the collector/recycler for the materials, so we are well prepared to transition to a regulated scheme model.”
“We hope to see soft plastic recycling processing projects funded in this year’s Waste Minimisation Funding Round and through the proposed $124 million investment in recycling announced by the Government earlier this month. It is only with a substantial increase in processing capacity including the South Island that the Scheme can deliver its full potential”
“We will work with the Ministry for Environment to develop a sensible co-design process to transition our voluntary product stewardship scheme to meet the new regulations over the next three years. In the meantime, it is business as usual for our scheme.”