The suspension of the soft plastic scheme announced today reflects the cyclically low demand for some mixed recycled plastics.
“It is a sad fact that the market for commodities including recycled wastes varies hugely over time,” said Packaging NZ Executive Director Sharon Humphreys.
Attempts by the Government and/or other organisation to artificially increase the rate and or type of material recycled can work for a while but do not have a good history of success. “Schemes motivated by a desire to reduce waste rather than meet a need with the products produced should be viewed with suspicion”, said Ms Humphreys.
The success of subsidised recycling is judged (and funded) on the basis of tonnes of waste diverted. The incentive is, therefore, to collect materials of little or no value by low-cost methods, notwithstanding the increased costs associated with re-sorting and processing them.
Packaging NZ has a strong record of arguing for integrated and evidence-based policy aimed at cost-effective minimisation of waste. That starts with efficacious packaging which prevents waste in the first place. “Our members are as concerned as anyone at the environmental harm caused by inappropriate handling and disposal of waste”, said Ms Humphreys,” but have long advocated for a joined-up approach, rather than perpetuating fragmented solutions”.
Packaging NZ was originally formed in response to the then Government’s realisation that cost-effective waste minimisation requires a collaborative approach between Government and business. We remain of the view that ‘command and control’ by central and local government will give rise to sub-optimal outcomes and cognisant of the risk this poses in a small, open and geographically spread economy such as NZ’s.
The suspension of the soft plastic scheme is in our view the latest casualty in a list of less than ideal projects enabled by waste levy funding and a preoccupation with minimising waste over commercial fundamentals.