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Environment and Sustainability New Zealand

New Zealand Government to phase out plastics by 2025

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The New Zealand Government is delivering on its promise to phase out problem plastics and some single-use plastics by July 2025. 

During Environment Minister David Parker’s announcement, packaging made from PVC and polystyrene, degradable plastic products and single-use plastic items is expected to be phased out from the country in the next four years. 

“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,” Minister Parker said. 

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

Under Section 23(1)(b) of the Waste Minimisation Act 2008, the plastic phase-out will be done in three stages: 

  • Late 2022:  PVC meat trays, Polystyrene takeaway packaging, EPS grocery packaging, degradable plastic products (eg, oxo and photodegradable), plastic drink stirrers, plastic-stemmed cotton buds. 
  • Mid 2023: Single-use plastic produce bags, plastic tableware (plates/bowls/cutlery), plastic straws, non-compostable produce labels.  
  • Mid 2025:  All other PVC and polystyrene food and beverage packaging 

Products that contain pro-degradant additives such as oxo-degradable and photodegradable plastics have also been targeted in the phase-out. 

“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,” David Parker said.   

“We’re encouraging businesses and people to find reusable options. We know alternatives are readily available including recyclable plastic or paper-based containers.” 

Over 159 grams of plastic waste is thrown out every day by a single New Zealander, making the country one of the highest waste generators in the world. This has created strong support within the population to change the way the country uses plastic. 

“We have made good progress over the past three years and there is strong public and business support for the 2019 plastic bag ban. That meant over one billion fewer plastic bags have ended up in landfills or the ocean – and we know New Zealanders are ready to do more,” Minister Parker said. 

“We estimate this new policy will remove more than two billion single-use plastic items from our landfills or environment each year.” 

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

The $50 million Plastics Innovation Fund has also been launched, supporting projects that reimagine how to make, use and dispose plastics. The fund is expected to boost jobs and support the country’s economic recovery.

“We need to back New Zealanders to innovate, find solutions and then scale them up. 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,” Minister Parker said. 

“Funding will be available for innovative projects from designing out waste in products and packaging, or adopting and scaling up existing technologies, through to switching materials and developing recycling solutions not currently available.”

The Plastics Innovation Fund will open in November 2021. It is expected to attract a wide range of applicants from research institutes and businesses as well as sector groups, communities and Māori organisations.    

Minister Parker said the country supports a coordinated global action on addressing the plastics problem at the United Nations Environment Assembly in 2022.

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