Parker pours $50m into a new trough to reduce waste while announcing plans for further plastics prohibitions

Having announced its plans to further restrict what we may say, the government turned to further restricting the materials used for packaging or for making goods we may buy.

And as part of the plastics announcement, Environment Minister David Parker launched a $50 million trough, enticingly named the Plastics Innovation Fund, to help support projects that reimagine how we make, use and dispose of plastics.

Funding will be available for innovative projects from designing out waste in products and packaging, or adopting and scaling up existing technologies, through to switching materials and developing recycling solutions not currently available.

Another measure with implications for civil liberties and for the wellbeing of the people affected was the extension of Alert Level 2 in the Wellington region.

At time of writing the ACT Party was preoccupied with expostulating against the speech constraints on the Ardern government’s legislative agenda, and had yet to give its views on the proposed plastics prohibitions, but the Nats and the Greens did respond critically.

The Greens, typically were disgruntled that the government hadn’t gone far enough.  But when were they ever satisfied?   

The plastics to be phased out by July 2025 are food and drink packaging made from PVC and polystyrene, some degradable plastic products and single-use plastic items.

“These types of plastics often end up as waste in landfills and cause pollution in our soils, waterways and the ocean,” Environments Minister David Parker said.

Phasing out unnecessary and problematic plastics would help reduce waste to landfill, improve the country’s recycling system and encourage reusable or environmentally responsible alternatives, he said.

He noted that New Zealanders each day throw away an estimated 159 grams of plastic waste per person and said this makes us some of the highest waste generators in the world.

Almost 8,000 people and businesses responded to consultation last year, and the majority supported the proposals.

“We have made good progress over the past three years and there is strong public and business support for the 2019 plastic bag ban. That meant over one billion fewer plastic bags have ended up in landfills or the ocean – and we know New Zealanders are ready to do more,” David Parker said.

The government estimates the new policy will remove more than two billion single-use plastic items from our landfills or environment each year.

The public should brace for further bans and restrictions.

Public consultation demonstrated further work is needed on single-use cups and certain types of expanded polystyrene used to transport cold items or protect large items, Parker said.

“There is strong support for taking action on coffee cups and wet wipes. The Government will work with industry and other stakeholders to develop a plan for these items and we expect to make a decision on next steps in 2022.

“Plastic straws are a particular area of concerns, and we are committed to phasing them out, but work is needed to ensure that does not have a detrimental impact on those who need to use them.”

The Green Party said it welcomed progress on the phase-out of some hard to recycle plastics and some single-use plastics, but more must be done.

“Plastic waste is one of our generation’s greatest environmental challenges,” says Green Party spokesperson for waste, Eugenie Sage.

She reiterated that New Zealanders dispose of an estimated 159 grams of plastic waste per person per day, but went further:  with a population of around 5 million the Ministry for the Environment estimates that equates to more than 290,000 tonnes annually.

Plastic is the most common litter found on our beaches (61% of all items in surveys for Sustainable Coastline’s Litter Intelligence programme).

Sage was disappointed the Government had delayed a decision until mid-2022 on whether to phase-out expanded polystyrene used in packaging for large items and chill boxes, and had not yet acted to phase out so-called ‘flushable’ wet wipes containing plastic.

She referenced a 2019 report, Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand, by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, which painted a vision for a future where there is significantly less plastic entering nature as waste and litter.

National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson said National was broadly in agreement with the Government’s decision but noted: 

“These changes aren’t without costs, however, and the Government needs to be aware of the impacts that will be felt by consumers. We can hope it will be a price most people who can afford it will be prepared to pay, but for some, even a few cents extra on the price of multiple products will be a real challenge when added to their total weekly shopping bill.”

The needs of people with disabilities should be considered as well.  The flexibility and hygiene of plastic straws cannot be replaced by organic alternatives, for example.

Simpson also criticised the Government for taking too long to act and for sending a series of conflicting messages to manufacturers and retailers over the last nearly four years.

Latest from the Beehive


Alert Level 2 in Wellington extended by 2 days

Alert Level 2 measures for Wellington, Wairarapa and Kāpiti Coast to the north of Ōtaki have been extended by 48 hours to 11.59pm on Tuesday 29 June, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says.

Alert Level 2 has been in place for four days to allow time for testing and contact tracing to occur.

“We don’t, however, have sufficient confidence yet to go back to Level 1. We need to see more negative results before we feel comfortable to make that call. At this stage, health advice is that two more days’ worth of results will provide a clearer picture for us to base a decision on.

“These are precautionary measures to ensure New Zealanders are not unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19. We will review the situation on Tuesday June 29.”

The extension of level 2 triggers the Resurgence Support Payment. This is available to business or organisation is facing a reduction in revenue due to an alert level increase.

A business or organisation must have experienced at least a 30% drop in revenue or a 30% decline in capital-raising ability over a 7-day period, due to the increased COVID-19 alert level.

The payment is calculated as $1,500 per business plus $400 per FTE, up to 50 FTE.

The maximum payment is $21,500.

Sole traders can receive a payment of up to $1,900.


Government takes action on problem plastics

The Government has delivered on its promise to phase out problem plastics and some single-use plastics by July 2025, Environment Minister David Parker announced today.

The plastics to be phased out will be:

  • Hard-to-recycle food and drink packaging made from PVC and polystyrene and some degradable plastic products (e.g, oxo and photo degradable).
  • Single-use plastic items, including drink stirrers, cotton buds, single-use produce bags, cutlery, plates and bowls, straws and fruit labels.

David Parker has also launched the $50 million Plastics Innovation Fund to help support projects that reimagine how we make, use and dispose of plastics.

Plastics will be phased-out under Section 23(1)(b) of the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 in three stages:

  • Late 2022:  PVC meat trays, Polystyrene takeaway packaging, EPS grocery packaging, degradable plastic products (eg, oxo and photo degradable), plastic drink stirrers, plastic stemmed cotton-buds.
  • Mid 2023: Single-use plastic produce bags, plastic tableware (plates/bowls/cutlery), plastic straws, non-compostable produce labels.
  • Mid 2025:  All other PVC and polystyrene food and beverage packaging
  • Products that contain pro-degradant additives such as oxo-degradable and photo degradable plastics have been targeted because they contain additives that makes the item break down faster. This plastic quickly fragments into smaller pieces known as microplastics.  Oxo-degradable and photodegradable plastics cannot be composted or recycled and are another source of contamination for our recycling system – making our environmental problems worse.

 More information on the Ministry for the Environment website:

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