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Govt to phase out single-use plastic items from late 2022

The Government will phase out hard-to-recycle food packaging and some single-use plastics from late next year as part of its promise to rid the country of problem plastics by July 2025. 

File image of single-use plastics piled up in a rubbish bin. Source: istock.com

The plastics to be phased out include hard-to-recycle food and drink packaging made from PVC and polystyrene, and some degradable plastic products. 

Single-use plastic items - including drink stirrers, cotton buds, single-use produce bags, cutlery, plates and bowls, straws and fruit labels - will also be phased out.

It follows the Government's move to ban single-use plastic bags in 2019 which saw 1 billion fewer plastic bags in landfills or the ocean.

“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,” Environment Minister David Parker said today in a statement.

“Phasing out unnecessary and problematic plastics will help reduce waste to landfill, improve our recycling system and encourage reusable or environmentally responsible alternatives."

Parker says Kiwis throw away an estimated 159 grams of plastic waste per person every day - making New Zealanders "some of the highest waste generators in the world".

He says almost 8000 people and businesses responded to the Government's consultation last year, with the majority supporting the proposed changes. The new policy is estimated to see more than 2 billion single-use plastic items removed from New Zealand landfills or the environment every year. 

The plastics phase-outs will be carried out over three stages, beginning in late 2022 for items which are easier to replace with more environmentally-friendly options, such as recyclable plastic or paper-based containers, Parker said.

“The timeframe for the phase-outs strikes a balance between the public call for urgent action and the time needed for businesses to adjust and for replacement products to be found,” he said.

Parker adds that public consultation demonstrated further work is needed on single-use cups and certain types of expanded polystyrene used to transport cold items or protect large items.

Environment Minister David Parker. Source: 1 NEWS

“There is strong support for taking action on coffee cups and wet wipes. The Government will work with industry and other stakeholders to develop a plan for these items and we expect to make a decision on next steps in 2022." 

Plastic straws were also a "particular area of concern," he said, but more work is needed to ensure it "does not have a detrimental impact on those who need to use them".

Taking action to minimise waste and problem plastics comes as part of the Cooperation Agreement between the Labour and Green parties.

Parker also launched a $50 million Plastics Innovation Fund to help support projects reimagining how New Zealanders make, use and dispose of plastics to protect our landscape and marine life.

"The fund will help tap into our collective ingenuity to find ways to use less plastic, and make what we do use recyclable for the benefit of the environment – while also boosting jobs and supporting the economic recovery."

The fund is expected to attract a wide range of applicants when it opens in November 2021. 

“We are moving Aotearoa New Zealand one step closer towards a low waste, low emissions circular economy."

Parker says addressing the plastics problem also requires change across borders.

"New Zealand supports coordinated global action through discussions towards a new global agreement at the United Nations Environment Assembly in 2022."