Govt pledges next steps on plastic waste

The Government will phase out more single-use plastics following the success of its single-use plastic bag ban earlier this year and the release today of a pivotal report for dealing with waste.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has welcomed the Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealandreport, released by her Chief Science Advisor Prof Juliet Gerrard.

“Our ban on plastic bags has already made a difference as we confront our enormous long-term challenge to tackle plastic waste,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Many New Zealanders, including many children, write to me about plastic – concerned with its proliferation over the past decade and the mounting waste ending up in our oceans.

“I share this concern for our natural environment – one that sustains our tourism, trade and our national identity.

“There’s more to do and our next steps to tackle plastic waste include:

  • Setting goals to shift away from low-value and hard-to-recycle plastic
  • Our first target will be to move away from single-use packaging and beverage containers made of hard-to-recycle PVC and polystyrene. Examples include polystyrene meat trays, cups and takeaway food containers. We will work towards ensuring that these are made of high-value alternatives like PET, HDPE and polypropylene, which can be recycled and reprocessed
  • Stimulate innovation and development of solutions to the soft plastic problem
  • Accelerate work with local government and industry on better and more consistent kerbside collection of recyclables

With industry, continue work to develop a labelling scheme for packaging, including plastic packaging

“We can ensure that New Zealand’s future is not full of throw-aways but of smart innovations and practical steps to reduce, reuse and recycle,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage said the report reaffirms and extends the Government’s ambitious plan to reduce waste, which includes:

  • A container return scheme for drink bottles and cans
  • Regulated product stewardship schemes for tough waste issues such as e-waste, tyres and batteries
  • A National Resource Recovery work programme in response to China and other countries’ bans on importing waste and recyclables
  • Improving waste data
  • Expanding and improving the landfill levy to help fund more ways to recover, re-use and reprocess materials
  • A $40 million Provincial Growth Fund investment to turn plastic waste into useful material for businesses and consumers.

“New Zealanders often tell me how concerned they are about the amount of plastics ending up in our oceans and harming fish, marine mammals, seabirds, and turtles,” Eugenie Sage said.

“A lot of this plastic waste doesn’t need to be created in the first place.

“Our goal must be to make Aotearoa an economy where plastic rarely becomes waste or pollution. As Prof Gerrard says there is no silver bullet and we need a systems change. The recommendations in this report will help us to achieve this.

“I aim to have the full Government response to the Rethinking Plastics report confirmed within six months,” Eugenie Sage said.

 Since the 1950s, 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced globally and nearly 80 per cent of that has gone to the dump or been discarded in the environment. Some 36 per cent of plastic produced today is single-use packaging.