Government takes action on problem plastics
The Government has delivered on its promise to phase out problem plastics and some single-use plastics by July 2025, Environment Minister David Parker announced today.
The plastics to be phased out will be:
- Hard to recycle food and drink packaging made from PVC and polystyrene and some degradable plastic products (e.g, oxo and photo degradable).
- Single-use plastic items, including drink stirrers, cotton buds, single-use produce bags, cutlery, plates and bowls, straws and fruit labels.
“These types of plastics often end up as waste in landfills and cause pollution in our soils, waterways and the ocean. Reducing plastic waste will improve our environment and ensure we live up to our clean, green reputation,” David Parker said.
“Phasing out unnecessary and problematic plastics will help reduce waste to landfill, improve our recycling system and encourage reusable or environmentally responsible alternatives.
“Every day, New Zealanders throw away an estimated 159 grams of plastic waste per person, making us some of the highest waste generators in the world. New Zealanders told us they support urgent change in how we use plastic. Almost 8,000 people and businesses responded to our consultation last year, and the majority supported the proposals.
“We have made good progress over the past three years and there is strong public and business support for the 2019 plastic bag ban. That meant over one billion fewer plastic bags have ended up in landfills or the ocean – and we know New Zealanders are ready to do more,” David Parker said.
“We estimate this new policy will remove more than two billion single-use plastic items from our landfills or environment each year.”
The plastics phase-outs will take place in three stages starting late 2022 for the easier to replace items.
“The timeframe for the phase-outs strikes a balance between the public call for urgent action and the time needed for businesses to adjust and for replacement products to be found,” David Parker said.
“We’re encouraging businesses and people to find reusable options. We know alternatives are readily available including recyclable plastic or paper-based containers.”
Public consultation demonstrated further work is needed on single-use cups and certain types of expanded polystyrene used to transport cold items or protect large items.
“There is strong support for taking action on coffee cups and wet wipes. The Government will work with industry and other stakeholders to develop a plan for these items and we expect to make a decision on next steps in 2022.
“Plastic straws are a particular area of concerns, and we are committed to phasing them out, but work is needed to ensure that does not have a detrimental impact on those who need to use them.”
Taking action to minimise waste and problem plastics is part of the Cooperation Agreement between the Labour and Green parties.
David Parker has also launched the $50 million Plastics Innovation Fund to help support projects that reimagine how we make, use and dispose of plastics.
“Plastic waste ruins our landscape and can be fatal to our marine life. It has been found in our fish, shellfish and seabirds,” David Parker said.
“We need to back New Zealanders to innovate, find solutions and then scale them up. The fund will help tap into our collective ingenuity to find ways to use less plastic, and make what we do use recyclable for the benefit of the environment – while also boosting jobs and supporting the economic recovery,” David Parker said.
“Funding will be available for innovative projects from designing out waste in products and packaging, or adopting and scaling up existing technologies, through to switching materials and developing recycling solutions not currently available.
“We expect the fund, which opens in November 2021, will attract a wide range of applicants from research institutes and businesses as well as sector groups, communities, and Māori organisations.
“We are moving Aotearoa New Zealand one step closer towards a low waste, low emissions circular economy,” David Parker said.
Minister Parker said addressing the plastics problem also requires action across borders.
“We want to be part of global solutions to tackle the impacts of plastic pollution. New Zealand supports coordinated global action through discussions towards a new global agreement at the United Nations Environment Assembly in 2022,” David Parker said.
Plastics will be phased-out under Section 23(1)(b) of the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 in three stages:
- Late 2022: PVC meat trays, Polystyrene takeaway packaging, EPS grocery packaging, degradable plastic products (eg, oxo and photo degradable), plastic drink stirrers, plastic stemmed cotton-buds.
- Mid 2023: Single-use plastic produce bags, plastic tableware (plates/bowls/cutlery), plastic straws, non-compostable produce labels.
- Mid 2025: All other PVC and polystyrene food and beverage packaging
- Products that contain pro-degradant additives such as oxo-degradable and photo degradable plastics have been targeted because they contain additives that makes the item break down faster. This plastic quickly fragments into smaller pieces known as microplastics. Oxo-degradable and photodegradable plastics cannot be composted or recycled and are another source of contamination for our recycling system – making our environmental problems worse.
More information on the Ministry for the Environment website: