Launch of Environmental Choice Licence for Gracefield's Tissue Paper Royal

  • Marie Hasler
Associate Minister of the Environment

I am delighted to be here today to present Gracefield's Environmental Choice licences. I know the technical work behind these licences reflects months of hard work for the Environmental Choice team. And earning the licences has meant months of hard work for Gracefield.

The process is rigorous. Requiring discipline and demonstrating a real commitment to the environment. Gracefield has scored a double whammy, with licences for "household tissue" and for "recycled" paper. Congratulations on being the first company to hold either licence, let alone both. This event is also a cause for satisfaction for Government. It is great news for the New Zealand consumer. And, it's great for the environment.

The concept of ecolabelling has been around since the late 1980s. Interest grew from consumers who wanted to buy products which did not harm the environment. The concept also picked up on concern about advertising messages which were not backed up by independent certification. People recognised the need for clear guidance about the real environmental effects of products.

Ecolabelling programmes have now been established in almost all developed countries. The New Zealand scheme developed in the early 1990s. more Like most of its overseas counterparts the scheme has taken a "life cycle" look at products. Production processes, the impact of products in the waste cycle, as well as the content of the product itself are all taken into account. The aim is to: · help consumers make more informed choices · encourage manufacturers and importers to reduce the environmental impact of their products and, ultimately · improve the quality of the environment.

From the outset, three principles have been critical for the New Zealand scheme: · it is run by an independent organisation known for its rigorous technical standards and assessment processes · it is voluntary · it is credible with all parties, because it is formally endorsed by Government. Comparability with overseas schemes is also important.

The programme has been formally reviewed by Government and we are satisfied with the way it has been run. Uptake by companies has, however, been slow. The first products to receive the Environmental Choice licence were paints and carpets. This was important for creating consciousness of environmental issues in those markets. Unfortunately, people don't buy carpets or even paint on a regular basis, so it has been hard to promote the label.

Clearly we've needed to get the label into supermarkets so we can raise the awareness of all consumers. Gracefield products are the breakthrough! Everyone uses loo paper, not to mention paper towels, serviettes and tissues. Now the Environmental Choice label is in supermarkets, I hope we see it promoted widely.

I want to see the label in every New Zealand shop, on an increasing range of products. We know people care about the environment. Many want to make informed choices when they shop. If this range of household tissue is widely promoted, they can do just that. Companies know shoppers want to make the right choices. more Look at the range of toilet tissue and stationery already labelled as "recycled".

And look at the companies making loose or questionable claims about being "green" and "environmentally friendly". Often they have nothing to back up their claims, or their messages tell only half the story. The Environmental Choice label provides credibility and proof of independent testing. This is the message I want New Zealand companies, retailers and shoppers to pick up on. So what do Gracefield's licences mean for the environment?

New Zealand generates about 3.2million tonnes of solid waste annually. Nearly 20 percent of this is paper products such as old newspapers, circulars, cardboard and other packaging. Recycling some of this paper into toilet tissue reduces the amount entering the waste stream. It closes the loop between what people put out for recycling and what they buy at the supermarket. While we used to say "today's paper is tomorrow's fish 'n chip paper", now it may be more apt to say "tomorrow's loo paper".

The processes of manufacturing and even recycling can involve hazardous chemicals. With licensed products, we know: · the paper isn't bleached with chlorine · toxic products aren't used to clean ink out of recycled paper · any new paper pulp being used comes from a renewable resource · the recycling mills don't pump toxic products into the air · the production machinery isn't cleaned with harmful solvents. Truly, now we can all blow, wipe and clean for the environment.

This is why I am here today as Associate Minister for the Environment, to celebrate with Gracefield and Environmental Choice. I wish Gracefield every success with promoting these products. You may well become over-worked as a result of your own success. The Government would like to see other makers of tissue products queuing up for licences, and makers of other products following suit. On this note, it gives me great pleasure to give you your licences and declare your products "launched".