Zero waste community unites to support move away from hard-to-recycle and single-use plastic items

Organisations focused on zero waste and the circular economy have joined forces to support the government’s proposed ban on a range of single-use and hard-to-recycle plastic products, and are encouraging New Zealanders who care about waste issues to do the same.

The alliance of zero waste groups include the Zero Waste Network, Wastebusters, The Rubbish Trip, Takeaway Throwaways, Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance, Better Futures Forum, Envision, Para Kore, Xtreme Zero Waste, Greenpeace Aotearoa, New Zealand Product Stewardship Council, RefillNZ, Waste-ed, and The Waiheke Resources Trust.

The group is encouraging the wider public to have their say on the consultation, which is open until 4 November 2020, and have created resources to make submissions easier.

“The Government’s proposal is really significant because it proposes to ban many plastic items that are commonly found in our environment and which make recycling more difficult” says Dorte Wray, Executive Officer of the Zero Waste Network.

“So, we really felt it was important for those of us who work in the area of zero waste to use our collective voice through a joint submission. We also wanted to make it easier for members of the public to submit because we know many people care a lot about plastic pollution.”

The 2019 and 2020 Colmar Brunton Better Future surveys found that plastic in the environment is one of the issues that most concern New Zealanders. 

The joint submission applauds the Government’s proposal and leadership around hard-to-recycle and single-use plastic products, and suggests changes and additions for the Government to ensure the proposal is inclusive, ambitious and reflective of our current climate crisis.

The group supports the proposal to ban the ‘targeted plastics’, which includes food and beverage packaging made of PVC and polystyrene, as well as a number of single-use plastic items, such as fruit stickers, produce bags, cotton buds and cutlery.

The group is encouraging the Government to take a ‘blended approach’ and combine the proposed bans with a wider range of regulatory measures that would accelerate the shift towards a reuse economy and avoid the risk of unintended outcomes.

“While we support bans on the proposed items, a ‘ban only’ approach can sometimes lead to the swapping of one single-use material for another. On its own it won’t necessarily create a culture of reuse, nor lead us to use more recycled plastics and less new plastic,” says Wray. 

“We would like to see the Government putting forward positive regulatory and policy options alongside a ban that would boost reuse alternatives and increase recycled content in products. Overall, this would result in less waste, a lasting shift in social norms and behaviour, and stronger markets for recycled resin.”

The joint submission also spurs the Government to commit to a quicker ban (of oxo-degradable plastics) and recommends action is taken on a wider ranges of problematic items, including cigarette butts, fishing gear, wet wipes, disposable coffee cups and lids, plastic lollipop sticks, single-serve sachets, balloons and glitter.

However, the joint submission recommends that plastic straws be removed from the ban and consultation with the disabled community be prioritised.

“Some people with accessibility needs require a plastic straw to drink. While some reusable alternatives work well for some people, for others there may be no reusable alternative that is suitable.”

The full joint submission and resources for groups and individuals to make their own submissions can be accessed on the Zero Waste Network website.

A link to the Government proposal and submission form can be accessed here. Consultation is open until 4 November 2020.