Minister questions merit of biodegradable plastics

plastic bagThe Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has urged the New Zealand Government to address the confusion surrounding biodegradable and compostable plastics.

The confusion stems from the environmental impacts of biodegradable plastics, depending on what they are made of, and where and how they are disposed of.

“There are all sorts of supposedly environmentally-friendly plastics coming onto the market, but it is extremely difficult for consumers to make sense of their respective claims,” said the commissioner, Simon Upton.

“There is a surprising degree of complexity at play here. One can’t simply toss these products onto the compost heap, or into our recycling bins, and go away thinking ‘job done’.”

The commissioner, in light of this confusion, has released an online resource to aid consumers in tackling the complexities of properly disposing of plastics.

Retail NZ pushes for Government leadership

Retail NZ’s general manager for public affairs, Greg Harford, backed the move by the commissioner.

“Retail NZ welcomes the information released today by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, and agree that the Government leadership is required on the whole issue of plastic bags, including composting and biodegradable bags,” said Harford.

There has been increased demand for sustainable forms of bags in recent months, and Harford said he believes retailers generally want to do the right thing by both consumers, and the environment.

“Retailers are covering a range of solutions, covering everything from expecting customers to bring their own, to providing, jute, paper, compostable and biodegradable bags.

“However, this area is full of conflicting information.

“There is a host of questions, both about science, but also about the availability of end of life recycling and disposal. Government is best placed to lead on these issues.”

The commissioner’s announcement follows Countdown’s move last month, to stop importing over 177 tonnes of virgin plastic into New Zealand each year, with the retailer moving dozens of its bakery and delicatessen items to locally sourced recycled PET (rPET) packaging.

Flight Plastics Ltd, which is New Zealand owned and operated and based in Wellington, will now be providing 19 rPET packaging products for Countdown’s in-store bakeries and delicatessen.

“New Zealand’s waste management infrastructure is under pressure, with recycling being stockpiled and limited onshore solutions,” said Countdown general manager corporate affairs, Kiri Hannifin.

“Countdown’s starting point is to, wherever we can, reduce unnecessary packaging, particularly single use packaging.”

The new recycled rPET products will start appearing in Countdown stores from August 2018 and form part of Countdown’s aim of 100 per cent reusable, recyclable, and compostable packaging by 2025.

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