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Labour’s plan for plastic and waste

As part of our plan to build back better, we’re taking action on waste and improving recycling to protect our environment, create jobs and future proof our economy.

Plastic waste ruins our landscape and can be fatal to our marine life. Here in New Zealand, we have one of the highest per capita rates of landfill waste in the OECD. Each year, New Zealand sends around 35,000 tonnes of plastic waste offshore instead of processing it here. Plastics have been found in our fish, shellfish and seabirds, and waste is responsible for around five percent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.

To tackle these problems, we need to rethink our approach to waste. We need to do more to prevent and avoid waste in the first place.

Over the past three years, we’ve made good progress on this challenge. We’ve banned single-use plastic bags, invested in our recycling infrastructure, and set out the next steps for dealing with environmentally harmful products, such as tyres, e-waste and plastic packaging, before they become waste. But we know there’s more to do.

Labour’s action plan is focused on both how we deal with waste in a more sustainable way now, and how we prevent waste in the first place. This won’t just help our environment, it will also create jobs, supporting our economic recovery from COVID-19.

There are three key parts to our plan. The first part is focused on preventing waste. 

Single-use plastic items, particularly those made from materials other than plastics 1 and 2, are difficult to recycle and often end up in our marine environment, where they can stay for hundreds of years. For example, every year more than 23,200 plastic straws are picked up from Auckland beaches. That’s why, if re-elected, Labour will phase out difficult-to-recycle single-use plastics such as PVC and polystyrene packaging, straws, plastic cutlery, some disposable cups and produce bags. We will also create a $50 million fund to research and develop alternatives, so that fewer waste products are developed in the first place.

The second part of our plan is focused on taking advantage of the economic opportunities that tackling waste offers. As part of our COVID-19 response, we’ve invested in waste infrastructure projects around New Zealand, including high-tech recycling plants, which will not only improve waste processing, but will also create jobs and future proof our economy. If re-elected, we’ll continue to invest in these projects to ensure we make the most of this opportunity to build back better.

We’re also committed to improving recycling. That’s why, through the third part of our waste action plan, we’ll make it harder to export plastic waste and easier to recycle here in New Zealand. We’ll also standardise kerbside recycling services across the country, which will reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill and help minimise our greenhouse gas emissions.

Taking action on waste is a key part of our rebuild plan. We’re ensuring we protect our precious environment and tackle the climate challenge, while also creating jobs. To find out more about how we’re preparing for the future while keeping our economy moving, read more about our rebuild plan here.


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