Pivotal point for packaging in New Zealand

A pivotal point for packaging in New Zealand

MEDIA RELEASE: The cost of dealing with packaging waste and a crumbling international recyclables market has until now been paid by ratepayers, and ultimately by our environment.
29 July 2020

For this reason, the country’s biggest packaging industry group, The Packaging Forum, backs today’s packaging announcement by Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage. Under the Waste Management Act 2008, plastic packaging will be declared a priority product.

The declaration allows for new regulation that will require all importers, producers and retailers to take responsibility for their packaging under a product stewardship model.

The Forum’s Independent Chair Rob Langford says regulated stewardship is a highly effective way of dealing with packaging and is the most significant move to date by a New Zealand government.

“However, there are pitfalls” he says. “That’s why it’s crucial that solutions are developed and led by business, in consultation with other stakeholders,” says Rob. “Effective solutions require not just the right regulations, but the mechanisms, infrastructure and innovations that business can provide to solve challenges throughout a product’s life cycle.

“Successful product stewardship schemes are not just collections systems. They must address the entire life cycle of packaging material – including product design that minimises waste, collection systems, labelling that is clear and meaningful for consumers, onshore recycling infrastructure, through to gueniuine and valuable use of recycled products. A circular, evidence-based approach is critical.”

Packaging Forum members have been funding voluntary solutions for packaging for a number of years. This includes the only government-accredited schemes for glass bottles and jars, and for soft plastics, alongside delivering the public place recycling initiatives such as the Litter Less, Recycle More project.

“While our voluntary schemes have achieved great results,” Rob says, “regulation shouldallow us to step up the scale of impact by by allowing for the removal of free-riders – those brands that currently choose not to contribute.

“We will now work to transition our voluntary schemes to comply with new guidelines for regulated schemes when they are issued.

While beverage containers were not announced as a priority product today, they were included in the initial consultation.

There is a working group looking at a Container Returns Scheme (CRS) for beverage packaging, however we believe glass, which already has a recovery rate of over 70% and an established onshore recycling solution, should be excluded from any CRS. We are already working on an alternative whole of life cycle model for glass that we are confident will cost consumers substantially less than a CRS scheme.

“We also look forward to working with Ministry for the Environment, local government, the resource recovery sector, and key community groups on co-designed and regulated solutions for packaging types that currently have no stewardship scheme in place,” Rob says.

The Forum accepts there will be a cost to business and ultimately consumers, but believes doing nothing comes at a high price to our environment and future. With regulation bringing the entire industry to the table, they say solutions will be robust, efficient and cost effective. Most importantly, if well designed, they will deliver better environmental outcomes for New Zealand.

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