Single use plastic bans 'hugely time consuming, not efficient'

New ways to tackle New Zealand's plastic problem are being considered, with the Government looking to place the responsibility of waste onto businesses that sell and create it.

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The Associate Environment Minister said today the Government would instead look into a product stewardship scheme. Source: 1 NEWS

Despite a large number of Kiwis calling for a ban on some single use plastic products, it is off the table. 

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage announced today the Government would investigate a product stewardship scheme for a variety of products including plastic packaging.

It would mean business would be forced to take responsibility for the end life of the products produced and sold. 

"This is the first time that Government has been serious about creating regulated, rather than voluntary, product stewardship schemes in New Zealand," Ms Sage said. 

When asked why a stewardship scheme was chosen over a ban on single-use plastic products, Ms Sage said they wanted to encourage a shift.

It comes after New Zealanders overwhelmingly wanted a ban on single-use plastics such as packaging, bottles and straws, according to the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll that found 82 per cent in favour. 

"Putting in place bans, product by product by product, would be hugely time consuming and is not an efficient way of doing it. This is much more effective, moving to product stewardship for groups of products," she said. 

"We want to encourage a shift but not just do it straight away and cause quite major dislocation. It's encouraging people to re-think the way they design and manufacture products, to ways where you can recover material at the end of its life."

Ms Sage said since the plastic bag ban, and ahead of the Government's plans to look into plastic packaging, many companies had been moving to alternatives such as compostable plastics. 

However, there had been issues with compostable plastic as to whether it would need commercial composting facilities, or was able to compost without. 

"We need proper labelling too, and that's another area of work, to label products properly, so people know whether they go to landfill, can go to curbside and recycle, or are compostable. 

Under the July 1 ban, businesses can no longer provide new single-use plastic shopping bags with handles to customers. Bin liners, bags for pet waste and meat, fruit and vegetable bags are not banned. 

Ms Sage said Australia had moved to label its products correctly. 

"I've asked Ministry for the Environment to look at what the opportunities are for that. There's a whole lot of working needing to be done in this space."

Public consultation on a product stewardship scheme would not finish until October, with any legislation likely to be announced next year.