Does Packaging New Zealand support the ban of problematical packaging materials?
Bans are blunt instruments which carry the significant risk of unintended consequences. Our preferred approach is a more considered holistic assessment of the 'problem' the ban is seeking to address so the 'solution' is appropriately targeted.
We are also cognisant that 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.
As pressure mounts globally to reduce the environmental impact of problematical packaging material, solutions are being focussed on circularity concepts which will effectively design out materials which do not fit into a systemic process of regeneration.
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?
Confusion around these terms has led to a great deal of misunderstanding around the perceived benefits these materials may have. The New Zealand Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment decided to initiate a small enquiry to understand the nature of the claims being made and subsequently developed a set of resources for consumers to navigate the terminology and the claims.
This resource is available on the Parliamentary Commissioner's website:
Millions of tonnes of plastic are going into the ocean each year, much of which is packaging. What should be done?
The issue of marine plastic pollution is today one of the top global environmental concerns facing the world.
A report from the Ocean Conservancy Organisation and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, published in September 2015, “Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic-free ocean” makes the point: “We also now have research to suggest that the majority of plastic enters the ocean from a small geographic area, and that over half comes from just five rapidly growing economies—China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. These countries have recently benefited from significant increases in GDP, reduced poverty, and improved quality of life. However, increasing economic power has also generated exploding demand for consumer products that has not yet been met with a commensurate waste-management infrastructure.”
Recent steps taken by China to halt the importation of recyclates has seen many of these markets close down which in turn is forcing countries to manage their own waste and recycling systems.
The packaging industry globally is focussed on measures to eliminate plastic pollution pledging to design materials which fit into circular systems, moving away from the linear take-make-waste paradigm.
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.
Should we be avoiding packaging material altogether?
Yes ....... and no!
The primary purpose of packaging is to contain and protect the product. Beyond this it provides information relating to the product, ingredients, origin, safe and effective usage. Society is healthier due to advanced packaging systems which allow for delivery of sterile, hygienically safe products into our healthcare sectors. We are well-nourished through access to fresh, shelf stable foods meeting all our requirements for variety and balanced food groups. We can be confident that where we choose products which are without preservatives, the packaging has provided that function.
Clearly we should not be avoiding packaging for some products.
However, there are also many opportunities today for consumers to avoid purchasing packaged goods, if this is their personal preference. We each need to be responsible for addressing our own purchasing decisions and be mindful of occasions where we can avoid packaging.
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 particularly at the end of life (where all the resources to grow are wasted). We advocate that good packaging can improve longevity of food and 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 was the Packaging Accord?
We have had two Packaging Accords 1996-2000 and 2004-2008. The philosophy pre the 2008 Waste Minimisation Act was that issues of waste and recycling were a societal problem, with both Government and the private sector having a role to play in finding practical solutions. In this regard the Packaging Accords were a collaborative approach to the management of solid waste and recycling.
The Packaging Accords provided a platform for central and local government to work with the packaging, waste and recycling industries on the complexities of emerging packaging trends, extended supply chains, changing consumer expectations and the flow-on effect these have on New Zealand’s waste and recycling capabilities. The Accords provided a forum to resolve the problems of siloed regulation, for example where food safety and consumer protection laws transect waste minimisation and commercial and fiscal incentives.
Who does Packaging New Zealand represent?Packaging New Zealand 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 compostable packaging products used more?
The physical properties, strength and densities of compostable plastics are different to those of conventional plastics. Meeting performance requirements is the primary purpose of packaging; therefore suitability for any given application must be assessed against these criteria to determine the feasibility of swapping conventional plastics for compostable plastics.
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 the "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?
Since modern landfills are not designed to break down waste – only store it – there is a case to be made that our modern landfills are, in fact, depositories of future resources. This is not condoning or perpetuating wasteful behaviour but rather raising the broader consideration that it is possible, if not probable, that advanced technological abilities will see harnessing these resources a future reality.
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