Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme releases its 1st Product Stewardship Accreditation Report

Download Soft Plastics Accreditation Report 2019

The Packaging Forum set up soft plastics collections in 2015 and the soft plastic recycling scheme received accreditation as a voluntary product stewardship scheme under the Waste Minimisation Act in March 2018.  

Chair of the scheme Malcolm Everts says that the scheme is a genuine example of a circular economy which directly funds collection, transport and processing:

“The report shows a tale of two different years and reflects the massive changes in global recycling conditions. Different times need different approaches and we have evolved from collecting as much as possible and shipping it to offshore recyclers, to collecting what we can process here in Aotearoa. Local processing is critical, and we have built close partnerships with Future Post and Second Life Plastics.”

“We adapted the scheme to match collections with NZ processing capacity, plus we have put further focus on reduce and re-use initiatives like phasing out single use plastic bags. It is pointless collecting waste if there is nowhere to recycle it. In 2019, around 13 million bags, enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool were collected and recycled in New Zealand, and that’s without the shopping bags that have been banned. This is in contrast to 2018 when 100 million bags were dropped off for recycling, but overseas recycling markets dried up and we stopped collections temporarily to deal with the excess.”

Mr Everts added:

“Product stewardship schemes must be flexible to adapt to the economic and environmental climate. Kiwis are engaged, and happy to clean, collect & deliver material for recycling. Industry is engaged under a voluntary approach and around 70% of brands that use soft plastic are scheme members funding the recycling service and taking steps within their own businesses to reduce plastic consumption where feasible.”

Scheme Manager Lyn Mayes agreed that flexibility and loyalty has been critical:

“Since the scheme received accreditation in March 2018, we first had to deal with the impact of China’s National Sword Policy which resulted in us suspending collections in early 2019 and this year we again suspended collections during COVID-19 lockdown. Throughout these changing times, I would like to thank the ongoing support and loyalty of our members, collection and processing partners and consumers.”

The report concludes that the principal limiting factor for the scheme is that there are only two processors in the North Island which are able to process post-consumer soft plastics and notes that expansion of processing capacity requires:

  • Demand for the plastic fence posts, garden edging, cable cover and other products currently being manufactured from soft plastic materials;
  • Investment in new processing facilities around New Zealand by central and local government in partnership with industry; and
  • There needs to be multiple “Future Posts” to create capacity; and Commitment by local and central government departments and Industry to purchase products made from recycled materials.