There has been an explosion in the use of plastic packaging over the last 60 years. Adequate systems to properly manage plastic packaging have not kept pace. This has led to a global waste and pollution crisis.
According to a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in a business-as-usual scenario, there may be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish by 2050. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has effectively banned the importation of waste for recycling.
The closure of this major waste market has highlighted the structural weaknesses in our current systems. Public concern over these issues has helped create an unprecedented opportunity for change.
A system wide approach to solving the issues is required. It must tackle the systemic causes of the problems, rather than individual symptoms.
Collaborative and coordinated approaches are required across all recommendations, with government providing the necessary incentives and obligations to facilitate this change.
We must also speed up the transition from petroleum based to sustainably sourced packaging materials. This will further reduce the environmental and social impact of packaging. Behaviour shifts and lifestyle changes could further enhance this system.
Our recommendations seek to establish a circular economy for plastics packaging in New Zealand. This will also enable New Zealand-based organisations to meet and exceed the requirements of the New Zealand Plastic Packaging Declaration and the comprehensive New Plastics Economy Global.
Commitment which includes among others:
We must take advantage of this convergence of business, civil and political will to take on this challenge with urgency. We must use it to tackle the issues with plastic packaging and get ahead of the curve of the necessary and inevitable global developments. We have a collective opportunity to demonstrate real leadership.
Source: ‘New Zealand’s Plastic Packaging System 2018: An initial diagnosis’