Protecting our environment and marine life from plastics

Our Government is taking further action on plastics to turn around New Zealand’s rubbish record on waste, and to restore our environment for future generations.

It’s now been more than three years since our Government banned single-use plastic bags, to help clean up our environment and protect marine life.

Before we took action, these plastic shopping bags were being used for only 12 minutes on average, but took 1,000 years to break down. They were littering our waterways and harming all kinds of species – from turtles and fish, to sea lions and whales.

Thanks to our ban on single-use plastic bags, and further work on plastics, it’s estimated that more than two billion single-use plastic items will be removed from the environment each year. But with more than 60% of the waste found on our beaches each year being plastic, we know that even more needs to be done.

Here are the next steps in our plan to clean up our environment:

Phasing out more single-use plastics

Our Government has undertaken significant work to phase out more single-use and hard to recycle plastic items by 2025. These include drink stirrers, cutlery, some cups and lids, produce bags, straws (with an exemption for those with disabilities), cotton buds and stickers on produce, such as those on individual fruit items.

We’ve also launched a $50 million fund to help New Zealand businesses develop and manufacture non-plastic alternatives, as we step up efforts to reduce waste and better protect our environment and marine life.

Better recycling for Kiwis and our environment

New Zealanders want to do the right thing by our environment, so we’re making it easier for everyone to recycle correctly and to reduce waste.

The rules for what is recycled and how is different depending on where you live. This leads to all sorts of confusion for households about what they should and shouldn’t be recycling, and means we end up with more waste going to landfill instead of being recycled.

To fix this, we’re standardising kerbside recycling right across the country to make it simpler and easier for people. This will also help local businesses design packaging that’s recyclable everywhere in New Zealand.

We’re also working on a container return scheme which could prevent one billion bottles from going to landfill each year, by incentivising people to return their empty drink containers for recycling.

After years of a hands-off approach from the previous Government, we know that the country needs to step up its waste infrastructure. To do this, we’re investing significantly in initiatives such as high-tech recycling plants to create jobs, improve recycling, and reduce the risk of rubbish polluting our countryside and waterways.

Did you know...?

  • Every day, New Zealanders throw away an estimated 159 grams of plastic waste per person, making us some of the highest waste generators in the world.
  • Since the 1950s, over 8 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced globally and 80% of that has gone to the dump or been discarded in the environment.
  • By 2050, the world's oceans could contain more plastic than fish measured by weight.
  • Every year, New Zealanders generate more than 17 million tonnes of waste, and send almost 13 million tonnes of that to landfill. That’s more than 860,000 rubbish truckloads of waste, every year.

There’s lots that our Government has done and is doing to turn around New Zealand’s record on waste and to better protect our environment. You can learn more about that here.

Wherever you are in the country, there's lots that you and your household can do to better support the environment too. Check out the Ministry for the Environment's website here, for a few ideas.

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