By Natalie Martin, 3R materials innovation manager 




Government is tackling the issue of plastic waste with a two-pronged approach – regulated stewardship, which I outlined in my last article, and proposed phase-outs and bans.

The phase out sees a proposed end to hard-to-recycle plastics and some single-use plastic items. The aim is to enable New Zealanders to use less plastic overall and ensure the plastic which is used, can be reused, repurposed or recycled.

The phase-out would run until 2025 and affect items like PVC and polystyrene food and beverage packaging, plus oxo-degradable plastic products. It would also see seven single-use items like straws, tableware and non-compostable fruit stickers banned.

Interest in the proposal has been strong with thousands of submissions being received during consultation, which closed on December 4, 2020.

These changes are undoubtedly going to be painful for industry – there simply isn’t a way to sugar coat it. Retooling, redesign and research into alternative materials will need to be a major focus for producers in the immediate future.

The challenge is obviously very complex and ranges across a multitude of businesses and products, and there is no simple, one-size-fits-all solution.

However, the advice I can offer – and I can’t stress this enough – is to begin the journey as soon as possible. Leaving this to the last minute could present enormous risks for your business.

A crucial element to your success is the willingness to collaborate. Research conducted by multiple parties is always going to be more effective, and easier to fund.

This is also a great time to look at logistics changes, innovative product delivery and the opportunity to change to a ‘new normal’ for your business in terms of packaging. Get it right, and there is potential to be a leader and reap the benefits.

Finally, be very cautious when considering alternative materials. Oxo-degradable plastics are the perfect example of an alternative which promised much but causes so much harm it’s been included in the proposed phase-out.

There are few, if any, silver bullets, so let’s embrace the challenge and create some innovative solutions.

Natalie Martin is the materials innovation manager at 3R Group in Hawke’s Bay. She has a background in food technology and over 10 years’ experience in new product development for FMCG and still supports the industry as a consultant. At 3R, Natalie works in new product development for various waste streams, including packaging.

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Hot Source, NZ Food Technology or the parent company, Hayley Media.