Do you believe that the Packaging Accord was a success?
Yes it was a success - the overall recycling rate of 58% was achieved by means of a voluntary mechanism and is comparable with countries who have adopted mandatory targets. It is also worth noting that the Accord was possibly ahead of its time in that it was a true product stewardship (PS) model where responsibility for packaging was spread across a number of stakeholders (central and local government and the recycling operators of NZ, as well as the packaging industry). Responsibility did not solely reside with the packaging industry – which is the extended producer responsibility (EPR) model which is often (mis)used interchangeably with product stewardship despite the significant difference in stakeholder involvement.
Does the Packaging Council put pressure on the recycling industry to be able to recycle plastic bags, including packaging bags?The Packaging Council supports initiatives which improve the collection of used plastic packaging, including bags. However it does not support uneconomic ventures which create unrealistic expectations which are unsustainable in the longer term. It would be unreasonable for the Packaging Council to apply pressure to recycling operators. If a business case exists then the recycling practice is probably already happening.
Globally there has been low progress on Zero waste to landfill initiatives. Why is that?
Aspirational goals are often divorced from the realities of economics, population growth and changing demographics.
Is it naïve to believe that the majority of people will make good choices about products and packaging?Products are available today in a myriad of different packaging formats. With food products in particular, and especially fresh produce there is the choice of packaged and unpackaged. What we promote is to understand how and when you are going to be consuming the product and base your decision to buy packaged or unpackaged accordingly. For example if you are buying fresh produce for immediate consumption then it doesn't make sense to buy in packaging. If however that same produce won't be consumed for several days, and therefore requires storing, it makes sense to buy that produce packaged which will prevent cross-contamination and/or prolong shelf life.
Is there a difference between biodegradable packaging and compostable packaging?
Yes! All compostable packaging is biodegradable but not all biodegradable packaging is compostable, so ‘compostable’ and ‘biodegradable’ packaging are not one in the same thing.
Millions of tonnes of plastic are going into the ocean each year, much of which is packaging. What should be done?
Plastic packaging is not necessarily the whole issue, end use collection and consumer behaviour are major factors. Therefore we believe systemic action and consumer awareness are required if we are to successfully address the issue of plastic packaging ending up in our oceans. We believe that conscious consumers are aready doing their bit and where appropriate and/or possible opt out of purchasing goods in plastic packaging. They are equally aware of reusing, recycling and are not likely to litter.
Whilst the packaging industry goes to great lengths to improve the impact of plastic packaging on the environment and is investing significantly into the use of biodegradables, biofuels, bio-adhesives etc. - there is equally an onus on improving the infrastructure to collect used packaging and a responsibility by the consuming public to dispose of used packaging in a manner which prevents it becoming litter. It could be argued that we need the local authorities to also enforce the litter by-laws as part of the suite of solutions to tackle this issue.
What is Cradle to Cradle?The Cradle to Cradle philosophy is the idea that materials are either recycled back into the technosphere (used to make more infinitely recyclable products or packaging) or the biosphere (are biodegradable and nourish the earth). Every year technology advances in packaging materials take us closer to that model, but the economics, system infrastructure and general mindset of the consumer need to be aligned also.
What is the industry's role in waste management or a 'zero waste to landfill' scenario?
We promote a whole-of-life approach to packaging and believe consideration should be given to the end-of-the product's life right from the initial design phase. This fundamentally means that innovative packaging design will prevent more waste than it creates. One of the largest issues facing the planet today is the scale of food waste - at the front end in production and resource use and then most particulalry at the end of life (where all the resources to grow are wasted). We advocate that good packaging can improve longetivity of food an be a part of the solution in reducing the volume of food waste.
We believe a whole-of-life approach delivers a reduction on waste and support our members to ensure they continue to improve practices to deliver on this philosophy.
What were the main accomplishments of the Packaging Accord, in terms of waste minimization?
During the term of the Accord the total quantity of packaging recycled increased by 26% whereas consumption of packaging increased at a much slower pace by 14%.
Who does the Packaging Council represent?The Packaging Council is the industry body which represents all businesses operating across the packaging supply chain; packaging manufacturers, packaging users (Brand Owners), retailers and service providers to the packaging industry.
Why aren't biodegradable packaging products used more?
The two main reasons why we don't have more biodegradable packaging material in NZ are:
- The source material itself may not in fact be a universally suitable packaging material.
- Compared to more traditional materials the cost differential of the biodegradable material may be a limiting factor.
Why do products come in so much packaging?
The issue of overpackaging is both emotive and subjective!
Packaging is an added cost so no company wants to add cost for no reason. Here are a few reasons for the different types of packaging and features in use today:
- We have access today to products from all over the world. To get the products to the consumer in perfect condition requires packaging which is robust enough to withstand global supply chains.
- Today's modern lifestyle has given rise to the issue of 'convenience' - single serve, heat'n'eat, freezer to microwave, complete meal solutions in one pack
- Anti Tamper/Hygiene requirements add layers of packaging
- Theft prevention where very small items are packaged in proportionally larger packaging
- Luxury packaging where the packaging it integral to experience of the product
- Health and safety requirements limit bulk packaging for weight restrictions
Why do you think landfills will be mines of the future, where we re-open them to recover packaging materials we have discarded?
As technology advances we believe that current landfills will likely be accessed for waste materials to be recovered and converted into energy.
Why doesn’t New Zealand legislate to ban the more damaging types of packaging, such as polystyrene?
Banning certain packaging materials would affect imported goods as well as those domestically produced. In turn this could potentially breach free trade agreements, disadvantage domestic producers with additional compliance costs, and/or result in certain products becoming unavailable to the New Zealand market with overseas producers choosing to boycott the New Zealand market rather than make changes.
We favour consumer pressure driving changes and improving infrastructure to deal with material such as expanded polystyrene.
Why is packaging sometimes produced from a recyclable material and other times from a non-recyclable material?
It is important to remember that recyclability is just one factor in considering the packaging lifecycle. With the technologically advanced packaging materials available today significant environmental savings can be gained for example by using lighter materials such as flexible plastics rather than metal cans or glass jars and bottles. Creating a positive benefit overall is preferable to a focus on just one aspect of the packaging lifecycle.
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