NZ Environment Minister David Parker has now officially announced that the country is phasing out some problem plastics and six single-use plastics. The plastics phase-outs will take place in three stages starting in October 2022, with completion targeted for July 2025.
The plastics being phased out include hard to recycle food and drink packaging made from PVC and polystyrene and some degradable plastic products such as those produced from oxo- and photo-degradable materials; and single-use plastic items, among which drink stirrers, cotton buds, single-use produce bags, cutlery, plates and bowls, straws, and fruit labels.
“These types of plastics often end up as waste in landfills and cause pollution in our soils, waterways and the ocean. Reducing plastic waste will improve our environment and ensure we live up to our clean, green reputation,” Parker said.
The Minister said that phasing out unnecessary and problematic plastics will help reduce waste to landfill, improve the country’s recycling system and encourage reusable or environmentally responsible alternatives.
Every day New Zealanders throw away an estimated 159 grams of plastic waste per person. This makes us some of the highest waste generators in the world. Almost 8,000 people and businesses responded to the plastics phase-out consultation last year, and the majority supported the proposals.
The first step, starting in October 2022, will see the phasing out of PVC meat trays, polystyrene takeaway packaging, EPS grocery packaging, degradable plastic products including products based on oxo- and photo-degradable materials, plastic drink stirrers, plastic-stemmed cotton-buds. This will be followed in mid-2023 by single-use plastic produce bags, plastic tableware (plates/bowls/cutlery), plastic straws, and non-compostable produce labels. Mid 2025, in step 3, all other PVC and polystyrene food and beverage packaging will be banned.
Further work is needed on single-use cups and certain types of expanded polystyrene used to transport cold items or protect large items.
It is important that disabled people continue to have fair access to plastic straws without discrimination. We will work with the disabled community to ensure this,” the Minister said.
The Environment Minister has also launched a $50 million Plastic Innovation Fund to help New Zealanders rethink and redesign the way plastic is made, used and disposed of. Projects could involve, for example, designing out waste in products and packaging, adopting and scaling up existing technologies, switching out materials and developing new recycling solutions.
The fund opens in November 2021. A wide range of applicants can apply including research institutes, business sector groups, communities and Māori organisations.
New Zealand wants to be part of global solutions to tackle the impacts of plastic pollution. The Environment Minister said New Zealand supports coordinated global action through discussions towards a new global agreement at the United Nations Environment Assembly in 2022.