Taking on problem plastics

We’re taking the next steps to tackle plastic pollution and protect Aotearoa’s clean green image, by phasing out hard-to-recycle and single-use plastics.

Since coming into Government, we’ve worked hard to look after our precious environment. Whether it’s putting in place protections for endangered Māui dolphins or investing in green jobs across New Zealand, our policies are making a difference. In fact, our plastic bag ban has meant one billion fewer plastic bags have ended up in landfills or the ocean since 2019 – and we know Kiwis are ready to do more.

Today, we set out the next step in our plan. We announced that we’re phasing out hard-to-recycle plastic food and drink packaging, along with single-use plastic items such as drink stirrers, cotton buds, single-use produce bags, cutlery, plates and bowls, straws and fruit labels over the next four years.

Every single 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. These types of plastics often end up in our waterways, where they are eaten by fish and birds.

It’s estimated that today’s changes will remove more than two billion single-use plastic items from our landfills and the environment every year, which will make a big difference for our seabirds and fish.

By phasing out these plastics over the next four years, we’re giving businesses time to adjust and find reusable options while making sure we protect our unique ecosystems and wildlife. We will introduce these changes in three stages:

  1. In late 2022, PVC meat trays, polystyrene takeaway packaging, EPS grocery packaging, degradable plastic products, plastic drink stirrers, and plastic stemmed cotton-buds will be phased out.
  2. In mid-2023, single-use plastic produce bags, plastic tableware, plastic straws, and non-compostable produce labels will be phased out.
  3. In mid-2025, all other PVC and polystyrene food and beverage packaging will be phased out.

We’re not just removing harmful materials from our communities and ecosystems – we’re also launching a Plastics Innovation Fund to support Kiwis developing innovative alternatives. The $50 million fund, which opens in November, will help to support projects that reimagine how we make, use, and dispose of plastics.

We expect funding applications from research institutes and businesses as well as sector groups, communities, and Māori organisations. Eligible projects could be focused on anything from designing out waste in products and packaging, to adopting and scaling up existing technologies, to switching materials and developing recycling solutions not currently available.

We’re excited to be supporting Kiwi ingenuity that aims to protect our precious environment. As we work to secure our recovery from COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to ensure we’re growing our economy sustainably, delivering on our commitment to tackle New Zealand’s waste problem, and safeguarding our environment for the next generation.

Our work on plastic pollution is just one way we’re protecting Te Taiao. For more information on how we’re looking out for our environment and tackling climate change, check out an overview of our work here.

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