Food and packaging industry gathers to tackle plastic waste

NZ's biggest packaging players discuss and exchange ideas for ending packaging waste.

The biggest players in the New Zealand food and packaging industry met last week at an industry event to discuss and exchange ideas for ending packaging waste.

The event, which included the Packaging Forum’s AGM, focussed on innovation in sustainable packaging and providing solutions for consumers.

Speakers included officials from the Ministry for the Environment, who discussed the current work programme on waste which has a strong focus on consumer packaging.

Packaging Forum chair Rob Langford said the ministry’s recent announcement, for consultation on the proposed declaration of packaging as a priority product under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008, was a major talking point.

Product stewardship sees people and business take responsibility for the products they make and sell at the end of their useful life, so that these products are recycled, reused or repurposed. Regulated product stewardship requires the whole of industry to participate.

“Our industry is already leading the charge to find solutions for our packaging at end-of-life, designing out unnecessary packaging, and reducing litter and potential harm to our land and waterways,” Langford said.

“Our current programmes, for soft plastics, glass bottles and jars, and litter via public place recycling are great examples of this.”

“The issues facing our industry are complex and we know collaboration is critical to enable us to meet demand from consumers and the Government for more sustainable packaging. The industry event is one of the ways we progress this,” Langford said.

“We are also leading the development of new product stewardship programmes for rigid food and beverage plastics.”

The project will accelerate the development of solutions to meet rapid demand from the industry, consumers and government, particularly for problematic plastics 3-7 as well as beverage containers, Langford said.

“Through this project, we are developing practical, on the ground solutions for rigid plastics.”

At the event officials from the Ministry for the Environment outlined their work programme around waste, while other speakers discussed recent innovation in packaging and design.

These included Future Post, which turns soft plastic and milk bottles into fence posts, and The Better Packaging Company, which talked about working directly with their customers on shared problems and solutions in a circular framework with e-commerce packaging.

Tauranga City Council representatives also spoke about the funding support received through one of The Packaging Forum’s programmes for a kerbside colour-separated glass service which has already doubled the amount of glass being recycled into new bottles and jars via O-I New Zealand. Industry group WasteMINZ also spoke about their research into compostable packaging.

The Forum currently operates the only government-accredited, voluntary product stewardship schemes for glass bottles and jars, and for soft plastics, alongside delivering the public place recycling initiatives such as the Litter Less Recycle More project.

Langford called on those not part of the Forum to join in order to foster greater collaboration.

The Forum last year made a pledge on behalf of its members, including manufacturers, brand owners and retailers, to make all their packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

“Addressing these issues is complex, with many aspects to consider, such as the recyclability of different types of plastic, labelling and material definitions, and the role plastic packaging plays in food safety and preventing food waste, but I believe we’re making great progress.

“The Packaging Forum provides a platform for all parties to develop bespoke onshore solutions the envy of the world. Simply transferring methods from overseas leaves us exposed to achieving mediocrity.”

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