Auckland, 8 December 2019: The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Juliet Gerrard, presented the 262-page report on ‘Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand’ to the Prime Minister on Sunday 8th December. Says Gerrard, “Most of our recommendations can be captured in a single phrase: ‘make best practice, standard practice’.”
In light of increasing public concern over the harmful effects of plastic pollution, and with a lack of comprehensive data on plastics, the government convened the project to chart a pathway forward for plastic in New Zealand. Led by Dr Rachel Chiaroni-Clarke from the Office of the PMCSA, it involved wide consultation and analysis of evidence and innovations from NZ and overseas.
The overall proposal is to establish a National Plastics Action Plan to achieve a futuristic vision where “Aotearoa New Zealand has maintained and enhanced its global image as a set of beautiful islands with a pristine environment, enhanced by the blend of stewardship principles of kaitiakitanga and systems and design thinking. We have a goal to be the first country to declare that it is no longer in the plastic age with a target date of 2050.”
WasteMINZ, NZ’s largest representative body of the waste minimisation, resource recovery and contaminated land sectors, is pleased to see the report articulating a national focus on many of the challenges and solutions that its members have been debating and creating in recent years.
Says newly-appointed Chair of the WasteMINZ board, Wayne Plummer, “There is much to agree with in this report. Our members have long since advocated for the consistency of a national rather than a regionalised approach, as well as consistency in the design, use and reuse of recyclable plastic to enable a circular outcome. We’re also critically aware that the industry and the nation as whole will benefit from clear data, information and education about our use of plastics, to engender and then measure the environmental impact of change.”
“While high level, I’m pleased to see that this report contains the practical implications of government strategies and initiatives for the waste minimisation industry and the New Zealand public alike,” he says.
WasteMINZ Chief Executive, Janine Brinsdon, agrees. “WasteMINZ’ sector groups and members, which include most of New Zealand’s councils along with recyclers, landfill operators and waste minimisation supporters, have been leading the charge against single-use plastic for some time. Our members have been instrumental in driving initiatives like Plastic Free July, research and clarification around compostable packaging, and today’s proposed ban on plastic fruit stickers, straws and cotton buds.”
It’s essential to remember, however, that not all plastic is bad, says Janine Brinsdon.
“Plastic plays a vital role in areas such as food preservation and safety. We share the vision in the report of restricting plastics to 1, 2 and 5, which have value and end markets for retaining in circulation for as long as possible. With our members involved at all levels in the business of plastics, it is now our priority to support every one of them through the roll-out of this wide-reaching plan towards a safe and healthy New Zealand.”
The National Plastics Action Plan include goals to:
- Improve plastics data collection by addressing key knowledge gaps across plastic use, reuse and disposal; monitoring litter via citizen science projects and incentivising manufacturers to label all plastics, all leading to a centralised national database
- Embed ‘rethinking plastics’ in the government agenda, driving best practice and alignment to the national plan through strong international connections; national initiatives like the Waste Minimisation Fund; teacher support and public awareness campaigns for education on all aspects of plastic, and industry agreements reaching for more sustainable plastic use
- Create and enable consistency in design, use and disposal through best practice guidance aligned with the Basel Convention, such as the mandating of product stewardship priority products, expanding the Waste Disposal Levy to all landfills and the rolling out the new Container Deposit Scheme
- Innovate and amplify the capacity to ‘reimagine’ plastics with innovation funding; multi-disciplinary thinking and approaches; community and citizen science initiatives, and building on innovative products and services that are already proving successful
- Mitigate the environmental and health impacts of plastic by building knowledge and data about leakage, preventative methodologies, and emerging challenges including microplastics and nanoplastics, with a longer term goal of standardising national recycling practices and encouraging life cycle assessment across the ‘6Rs’ (rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, replace) to keep plastic in circulation
The Rethinking-Plastics-in-Aotearoa-New-Zealand_Full-Report is available here, with summary options below.
Media enquiries to Janine Brinsdon, Chief Executive, on [email protected], or 022 309 6690.