Single use plastic bags are gone – what’s next?

Following the ban of single use plastic shopping bags in 2019, the Government (through the Ministry for the Environment (MfE)) is continuing work around reducing plastic waste.

In December 2019, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor released a report, Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand. In response, the Government pledged to shift away from low-value and hard-to-recycle plastics and to phase out more single-use items. As part of this pledge, MfE is currently consulting on proposed regulations to phase out:

  • Certain hard-to-recycle plastic types (Proposal 1); and
  • Seven single-use plastic items (Proposal 2).

Proposal 1 focuses on phasing out plastics such as PVC and polystyrene food and beverage packaging, all other expanded polystyrene packaging, and oxo-degradable plastic products. The phase outs would follow two stages, Stage 1 by 2023 and Stage 2 by 2025.

MfE has indicated that types of plastics are being phased out because they create a bigger problem for recycling than other plastics. In particular, PVC and polystyrene cannot be readily recycled in New Zealand and overseas markets to recycle them are limited. Oxo-degradable plastic products contain an additive that makes them break down faster into small pieces (microplastics) and they cannot be composted or recycled.

Proposal 2 focuses on seven single-use plastic items that have been identified as causing problems in the waste or litter streams. These are single-use produce bags, tableware (e.g. plastic plates, bowls, cutlery), non-compostable produce stickers, drink stirrers, some single-use cups and lids (including plastic-lined cups, but not disposable coffee cups), plastic cotton buds and plastic straws. The intention is for phase out as soon as 2021.

MfE has indicated that these items are being targeted because they are usually only used once but many have reusable alternatives.

People can have their say on these proposals by filling in a short survey (by clicking here) or by providing detailed feedback before 5pm on 4 December 2020. Further information is available here on the MfE website.

If you have any questions about these proposals or how they could affect your business operations, please contact a member of our Resource Management team.

Thank you to Sophie Jackson for preparing this article.

Click here for other Resource Management Law articles.

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