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Tackling more problem plastics

The Ministry for the Environment wants to hear peoples thoughts about phasing out more single-use and hard-to-recycle plastics.

Following the plastic shopping bag ban last year, the Government is now proposing to phase-out more plastic items.

The four-month public consultation process ends on December 4.

Seven single-use items have been identified for proposed phase-out, as they provide problems to New Zealand's waste management system, or end up as litter.

The proposed products are single-use plastic bags, tableware (plastic plates, bowls, cutlery), non-compostable produce stickers, drink stirrers, some single-use cups and lids, plastic cotton buds and plastic straws.

The seven items were selected using criteria including environmental harm, sustainable alternatives and international trends.

The Government is also proposing to phase-out all PVC food and beverage packaging, polystyrene food and beverage packaging, other expanded polystyrene packaging and oxo-degradable plastic products.

PVC and polystyrene pose bigger problems for recycling than other plastics, such as PET. In many cases, there are alternative plastics that are easier to recycle.

Plastic Bag-Free Tairawhiti (PBFT), a group committed to phasing out single-use plastics, are 100 percent supportive of the proposals.

Eliminating products that are virtually impossible to recycle in Aotearoa makes perfect sense, Nicky Solomon, one of the founding members of PBFT, said.

“The proposal to phase out the seven single-use items that have been identified is a fantastic idea — all of these items can be easily replaced with reusables.

“This is a great next step after the elimination of the single-use plastic shopping bag, and I am delighted that the Government is taking these steps,” she said.

“New Zealanders come into contact with plastic every day. It is fundamental to today's world. But, when overused, not disposed of properly or if it ends up as litter in our cities, towns, parks and beaches, it can cause significant damage,” Ministry for the Environment deputy secretary Sam Buckle said.

“Recently we've taken steps to protect our environment from plastic waste but there is still more to do.

“Last year we phased out single-use plastic shopping bags. That initiative had a real impact on the way New Zealanders think about plastic and plastic waste.

“We are now proposing to phase out these seven single-use items, as well as types of hard-to-recycle plastic material to clean up our environment, and to make it easier to recycle.”

The public consultation was about seeking input on the possible costs and benefits of the phase-outs, potential unintended consequences, and possible exemptions.

“Please help us ensure the best outcomes for the environment and our communities by telling us anything we may have missed, and any specific impacts on you and your whanau.”

Head to https://tinyurl.com/y69ltq2r to make a submission.

Submissions close 5pm on Friday, December 4.