Global trends indicate that people are becoming increasingly concerned with sustainability and “going green.” In New Zealand, recent years have played host to such schemes as the single-use plastic bag ban and the New Zealand plastic packaging declaration. The plastic bag ban was met with great support from consumers across the country. One of the issues that New Zealand faces, however, is the lack of recycling facilities and general waste-related infrastructure to keep up the plastic processing demand. New Zealand needs to look at ways in which we can progress towards a sustainable plastics economy.
Malcolm Everts, the marketing manager for Cottonsoft Ltd., said, “An integrated industry-wide approach is required to address plastic waste in New Zealand. We can no longer rely on off-shore recycling so local effort, aligning retailer, supplier and government ambitions are key to a sustainable solution. Future moves to remove plastics from the chain altogether will rely on a safe, serviceable alternative being available.” As a smaller nation, there is ample opportunity for us to develop the required facilities to make sure that our plastic footprint is reduced.
“The first issue is recognising we have a problem; then ensuring solutions are genuinely sustainable to help shoppers, consumers and suppliers make better environmental choices.” New Zealand recently trialled a soft plastics recycling scheme where bins were placed in retail stores and supermarkets, for customers to leave their plastic waste in. The initiative was successful, and about 400 tonnes, equivalent to 100 million plastic bags, were recycled, which would otherwise have all gone to landfill. However, the cessation of off-shore processing, limited local processing capacity and limited demand from both local and international businesses to resell or reuse the materials has meant collections have been suspended, “This [was] an industry-funded scheme, accredited by the government, and supported with advice from Ministry for Environment, though it was the steering committee and governing team (the Packaging Forum) that chose to suspend collections temporarily. Not making that decision could have undermined historic success, and future potential, for local soft plastic recycling.”
Cottonsoft is an excellent example of a company leading the charge for sustainability. Its brands are encouraged to be supportive, competitive, and sustainable. Everts describes, “Sustainable sourcing of raw material (paper) is key to our business, with independent certification such as ECNZ (Environmental Choice) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) becoming an increasingly important consideration for retailers and shoppers alike. Sustainability certification extends beyond the environment alone, ensuring worker rights, safety and well-being are also at the forefront of business goals.”
“Three years ago there was virtually no local processing capacity for post-consumer soft plastics and overseas processing was our only option. Today we have two local processors recycling the soft plastic into items such as fibre optic cable covers and fence posts.” Retailers are actively encouraging alternatives such as electronic labels and re-useable bags—collectively reducing the volume of soft plastic waste.
“Recycling alone will not solve the local challenge, though collectively we’re making a positive impact on reducing waste and supporting better environmental outcomes for New Zealand.”
For more information contact Malcolm Everts at firstname.lastname@example.org