To reach their goal of making New Zealand a low-waste, circular economy, the government has initiated a three-year phase out programme which will see the banning of single-use, hard-to-recycle plastic products.
The first part of this initiative, also known as phase one, commenced on the 1st of October 2022, which saw six single-use plastic items banned for wholesale/public use.
The items outlined in this new legislation include single-use plastic drink stirrers and cotton buds, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pre-formed food trays and containers, polystyrene food and beverage takeaway packaging, and polystyrene packaging used by fast food outlets.
The ban also extends to retail food and beverage packaging such as foam takeaway containers or some instant noodle cups, and lastly, plastics with additives that make them fragment into micro-plastics have also been made illegal to buy, sell or manufacture in New Zealand. There are exemptions to some of these bans along with suggested alternatives to smoothen the transition to greener options.
“It’s really great to see that our government has taken the first steps towards making Aotearoa a circular economy, however this type of legislation can leave ‘gaps’ for industries to take advantage of,” explains Gemma Coutts, Our Seas Our Future’s (OSOF) policy-coordinator.
“As consumers we need to be wary of the ‘eco’ packaging that packaging manufactures will push as a result of this legislation loophole,” states Coutts. “Especially watching out for packaging that states it’s ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘biodegradable’, as our waste systems are not streamlined across the motu, and it can be confusing knowing how to properly dispose of those items.”
It has been estimated that each year on average, every New Zealander will send about 750kg of waste to the landfill. The environment minister says that this initiative will stop the sale of these plastic products, will reduce waste to landfill, improve our recycling systems and encourage reusable or environmentally responsible alternatives.
“Reuse is absolutely the way forward,” says Coutts. “It has been recommended by our own Ministry for the Environment – and you’d be surprised at how easy and second-nature it becomes once you do it a few times. Local places like cafes and sushi shops already accept reusable containers for food and drink, which is really cool to see.”
“Hopefully we do begin to see a drastic reduction in waste, due to this phase-out programme. Aotearoa is known for being this beautiful, green country, yet when you look at our beaches or national parks it tells a very different story.”