Business North March 2021

100 | Helping the drive to sustainability Karen Phelps The Circular Economy Programme will drive change by providing training and advice specific to the New Zealand context. INDUSTRY Plastics NZ P lastics NZ has secured just over $1 million in government funding to help Aotearoa New Zealand change its rela- tionship with plastic. The Circular Economy Programme will drive change by providing training and advice spe- cific to the New Zealand context, says Plastics NZ CEO Rachel Barker. The $1.7 million, three-year project is being supported by $1,084,840 from the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund. “Many companies have the goal of ensuring their packaging is either reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. A lot of them aren’t quite sure how to get there, however. “The desire to be more sustainable doesn’t mean the pathway is clear. Plastics NZ will provide practical assistance that helps com- panies take very real steps towards achieving their 2025 goals, while also avoiding unintend- ed environmental harm.” Rachel says that while plastic fulfils many important functions it is important to ensure it is used responsibly. As part of the programme Plastics NZ will also work closely with other stakeholders to find national recycling solu- tions for several plastic waste streams. “Plastic gets a very bad rap because of end-of-life mismanagement. It’s important to remember it also has environmental benefits. When looking at whole-of-life impacts plastic outperforms most other packaging in terms of shelf life, carbon emissions and water use. “We need to make sure that social-me- dia-science doesn’t lead us down a path to save the turtles, only to find we’ve killed all the penguins and polar-bears through increased carbon emissions. We need to protect all aspects of our environment.” As the Circular Economy Programme will see Plastics NZ pull together key parties across the New Zealand system to find national recy- cling solutions Rachel says this collaborative work will identify the barriers and gaps within the system and actions that can be taken to resolve the issues. She says this work is likely to help guide investment decisions for compa- nies, Councils and even Government. “Plastic is such a versatile material that it is used in almost every sector of our economy. To create real change, deal with our waste onshore, and to achieve a circular economy for plastics in New Zealand we need all parties across the system to work together.” She says more remote parts of New Zea- land in particular need assistance and solu- tions could include linking plastic manufactur- ing businesses with local councils or setting up a means for plastic waste to be granulated locally for easier transportation to other parts of New Zealand for recycling. Sandy Botterill who has a background in environmental law and strategic change man- agement, has recently joined Plastics NZ to manage key aspects of the Circular Economy Programme. She expects the training aspect of the initi- ative will commence mid-2021 and the design advisory service by end of March. “We really need to rethink the design of products to make sure they can be recycled or reused efficiently. For example foil stuck onto cardboard means these items can’t be separated for recycling. So it’s about thinking how packaging could be disassembled. This programme will help to shift the perception of plastic from being rubbish, to being a valuable resource that can be used, re-used, recy- cled and then used again. I hope to see real transformation in Aotearoa New Zealand’s relationship and understanding of plastics.” Rachel says the programme is only one of a suite of environmental initiatives that Plastics NZ is working to lift the performance of the industry to best practice. The organisation has been running sustain- ability initiatives, including Best Practice Pro- grammes around energy, water and waste, for more than three decades. The organisation has also produced Design for the Environment guidelines with an emphasis on initial design and recyclability. Product stewardship and design for the environment are integrated into the organi- sation’s training in the Diploma in Design and Specification of Plastics and the NZ Qualifica- tions Authority Unit Standards for Plastics. Proud supporters of Plastics NZ with sustainable, fit for purpose packaging. For all your packaging requirements please contact Caspak Sustainable on 09 421 9019 or via our website