Plastics phase-out backed by Packaging Forum


Wednesday, 30 June, 2021


Plastics phase-out backed by Packaging Forum

The Packaging Forum has welcomed the New Zealand Government’s move to phase out difficult-to-recycle and some single-use plastics, but cautioned against the phase-out causing unintended consequences.

The Packaging Forum CEO Rob Langford says the Forum, and its Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme, had largely supported the proposal during its consultation period and were pleased to see government take the next step.

“There was a long consultation period, as there should be, and it’s great to see government moving forward. It’s essential there are end-of-life solutions in place for packaging and in the case of the plastic types being phased out that is not the case.

“Oxo-degradable plastics are a prime example as they are neither recyclable or compostable,” Langford said. He added that it’s important to note bioplastics (often referred to as ‘compostable plastic’) will also be part of the single-use plastic item phase-out.

The Forum stressed that, as industry moves to alternative materials, recycling, reuse and other end-of-life solutions must be developed for these materials, as well as consideration around food safety.

“We are therefore urging care when choosing alternatives,” Langford said, pointing out that alternative materials, such as compostable and fibre (paper and cardboard) packaging, also have challenges, especially when considering New Zealand’s focus on a low-emissions and a zero-waste economy.

“Our Compostable Technical Advisory Group is currently developing a use case for New Zealand and is busy consulting with industry and stakeholders,” he said. He added that moving to alternative materials is a major undertaking for a lot of manufacturers, importers and retailers.

The Forum’s submission during the consultation period called for a full cost–benefit analysis, which follows Treasury guidelines, to assess impact on business, food safety, shelf life and cool chain (particularly for export items).

“That’s where the $50 million Plastics Innovation Fund announced by government is therefore very welcome and will be vital in helping industry transition and overcome challenges. We are watching with interest to see how those funds will be allocated and excited to see what innovative solutions are developed as a result.”

Phase-out timeline

By late 2022:

  • PVC meat trays
  • PS (polystyrene) takeaway food and beverage packaging
  • EPS (expanded polystyrene) food and beverage packaging (including meat trays)
  • Degradable plastic products (eg, oxo-degradable)
  • Plastic drink stirrers
  • Plastic-stemmed cotton buds (including bioplastics)
     

By mid-2023:

  • Plastic produce bags (not including prepackaged produce)
  • Plastic plates, bowls and cutlery (disposable)
  • Plastic straws
  • Plastic produce labels
     

By mid-2025:

  • All other PVC food and beverage packaging
  • All other PS food and beverage packaging (eg, yoghurt packs)
     

Image caption: The Packaging Forum CEO Rob Langford. Image courtesy of The Packaging Forum.

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