Annual Award for Environmentally Acceptable Packaging.

  • Deborah Morris
Associate Minister for the Environment

Ladies and Gentlemen, John Webber, good evening and thank you for the invitation to speak to you tonight.

I am pleased to be here to launch the Packaging Council?s Annual Award for Environmentally Acceptable Packaging.

These awards show the packaging industry?s continuing commitment to the environment and to the Packaging Accord.

The Accord remains the only voluntary agreement signed with industry under the auspices of the Government?s Waste Policy. It grew out of community concern about packaging waste in the environment.

This concern has not lessened. The need for the industry to continue to work on reducing the environmental impact of packaging remains.

I am committed to ensuring that we have a reduction in solid waste.

In the lead up to the new millennium the Government needs to demonstrate to the public that it is serious about dealing with the waste issue.

The Ministry for the Environment is focusing on hazardous waste - and given the environmental impacts of this waste this is an appropriate first priority. However I do not feel we can overlook the need for better solid waste management.

The Government has to begin to consider waste minimisation and what policies are required to ensure waste reduction. The information we have on waste is not complete but is beginning to give us a clearer picture about waste in New Zealand. It suggests that the amount of waste we dispose of is on the increase.

There is a positive correlation between economic growth and waste production. We need to change this if we are to make progress towards our stated waste reduction goals.

This poses a challenge to us as policy-makers. It is time for us to look at new strategies. It seems to me we are at the point where we need something with more teeth. To make progress we need to take a long hard look at the tools we are using to do the job.

If we are to develop meaningful policy on the waste reduction problem we need first to develop tools for measuring the success of various policies. We cannot assume that simple adherence to the waste hierarchy will in itself provide better environmental outcomes.

This requires us to invest in research that demonstrates the best way top measure environmental impacts. The Ministry for the Environment will be commissioning research into this over the next two years. This will allow us to review the current tools and to develop new ones to ensure waste reduction.

Prudent industries that are addressing solid waste management will be less affected if the Government moves towards regulatory approaches.

Clearly members of the Council fall into this group. I salute you for your proactive approach. I want to encourage your enthusiasm for seeking voluntary solutions.

What we want to stop are the free riders from undermining your efforts.

The focus of the work of the Council since the Accord has been signed has been on measuring packaging waste. But this work has now entered the next phase. The focus has moved to encouraging change and improving environmental performance of packaging.

Just this morning I heard on the radio that members of the public were sending plastic beer packaging back to the breweries. They were frustrated that bird life kept getting caught in it. This is a good illustration of the interest we all have in improving packaging.

This Council's new name reflects its new focus and drive for new and diverse membership. I am pleased to see retailers and others have joined the Council and are working towards the Accord?s aims.

I am also pleased to see the involvement in developing environmental education materials. This is an area in which I am very interested.

Environmental education activities are typically multi-disciplinary and take account of the linkages between economic, social and physical processes. The distinctive contribution of environmental education is the emphasis on developing knowledge, attitudes and to help maintain and improve the quality of the environment.

The Ministry for the Environment is just completing the National Strategy for Environmental Education. The Strategy describes the nature and scope of environmental education. It defines the Government?s interest in it and importantly establishes six strategic priorities for government actions. It also clarifies how the strategy will be monitored.

Improvements in the effectiveness of environmental education activities and a better understanding of its contribution to policy should assist in good environmental management. It has the potential to reduce the need for more direct intervention, such as regulation. And it is an acknowledgement that we all have a role to play.

The Strategy is not intended to be prescriptive or definitive. It provides a framework for action but leaves open opportunity for its evolution and the development of other activities.

Industry and groups such as yourselves have a very important role to play in the continuing development of environmental education.

Along with education, the Council also recognises that it is time to encourage members to think about innovative ways of dealing with the environmental impacts of packaging.

These awards allow companies that produce and promote environmentally acceptable packaging to be recognised.

I urge you to become involved in this and look forward to seeing the announcement of hotly contested awards next year.

Can I congratulate you all on your involvement and wish you well for your future efforts to reduce waste and improve environmental performance.