Packaging New Zealand says that it understands the government’s reason for its ban on single-use plastic bags, but it would be alarmed if this was extended to plastic packaging.
Last week, the government announced it will phase out single-use plastic shopping bags over the next year. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern and associate environment minister Eugenie Sage made the announcement on Friday. Prime minister Ardern said, “Every year in New Zealand we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags – a mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life.
“We’re phasing-out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation.”
However, Packaging New Zealand has asked for a balanced debate onb the issue. Sharon Humphreys, executive director of Packaging New Zealand, says, “Plastic packaging is used because it is effective, efficient and economic. Any suggestion to extend plastic bans into the packaging space starts to impact areas such as food safety, sterile packaging, logistical efficiencies affecting carbon emissions, health and safety regulations, to name a few. This would be a step too far.
“Advocates of banning plastic will always find examples of potential misuse, but those charged with policy development need to offer a balanced perspective, which is mindful of society’s requirements, not simply appeasement of the vocal minority.
“Let us be clear, we too are horrified by the devastating effect on the natural environment of plastic pollution. Fewer bags in circulation will inevitably mean a reduction of bags in the natural, environment.
“This would be a good outcome, but it must be acknowledged that banning bags demonises the product – single-use plastic bags – but excuses the conduct of those who litter.
“It stands to reason that if we are going to reduce the use of these bags then we must also empower people to do the right thing with them, or prosecute those who don’t. We already have the means to do this through the grossly under-used Litter Act, raising the question whether more regulation is really necessary.
“Our concern is that in just tackling a single waste stream, especially considering that a voluntary phase-out of these bags is already well underway, it will be a distraction to establishing the urgently needed national strategic plan for waste management and recycling in New Zealand.
“It is Packaging New Zealand’s sincere hope that the government is going to live up to the claim made at the plastic bag announcement: ‘We are a government determined to face up to New Zealand’s environmental challenges’, because at this stage it seems that tokenism is winning out over substance.”