More plastics to be phased out

12 April 2022

As part of the Government’s Waste Minimalization Act to phase out problematic plastics, regulations will come into force in October this year to ban the sale and manufacture of products that contain certain plastics.

Most of these plastics cannot be easily recycled. and break down into micro plastics which are harmful to living creatures and the environment. They have recently been found in human blood.

The items banned as of 1 October 2022 will be: 

  • Plastic cotton-buds 
  • Plastic drink stirrers 
  • Oxo and photo-degradable plastic products 
  • Certain PVC food trays and containers (pre-formed and rigid)
  • Polystyrene takeaway packaging 
  • Expanded polystyrene food and beverage packaging 

Reasons for the regulations

Plastic is one of our greatest environmental challenges. It regularly ends up as waste in our landfills, our moana and whenua. We want people who live in and visit the South Wairarapa to enjoy the amazing environment we offer without seeing plastic waste.

Difficult-to-recycle packaging and products can interfere with our recycling systems and are often used only once before being disposed of.

Shifting away from these plastics will help reduce waste, improve our recycling systems, and protect our environment. This move is also part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s journey towards a low-carbon, low-waste circular economy. 

The ban in detail

Plastic drink stirrers

This ban includes plastic drink stirrers made of all plastic types including degradable, biodegradable, and compostable plastics. There are no exemptions for this ban. 

Plastic stemmed cotton-buds  

This applies to plastic stemmed cotton-buds made of all plastic types including degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastics. 

Oxo and photo-degradable plastic products 

Oxo and photo-degradable plastic products are typically made of conventional plastic that has been manufactured with additives which help the plastic to quickly fragment into smaller pieces, but don’t break down in a specified timeframe (like compostable plastics). These plastics cannot be composted or recycled in Aotearoa, leaving micro-plastics in the environment (pro-degradant).

The following plastics contain pro-degradant additives and will be banned:

  • Bin liners 
  • Pet waste bags 
  • Litter tray liners
  • Magazine wraps 
  • Dry cleaning bags 
  • Padded envelopes 
  • Garment packaging

While the ban targets all plastics with pro-degradant additives, oxo and photo- degradable plastics are the most common examples of these plastic types on the market at the moment. There are a few additional plastic types emerging in this category, and we intend to provide updated information prior to these regulations coming into effect. 

PVC food trays and containers (plastic type 3) 

This ban will include pre-formed trays and containers that contain PVC or polyvinylidene dichloride (PVdC), when they are used for meat products (including substitutes), produce or baked goods. The regulations are not intended to ban the same trays if they are used for other purposes. 

A pre-formed tray is intended to capture rigid trays that are manufactured separately to the food it packages. The ban is not intended to cover PVC form-fill-seal packaging where the plastic is formed, filled with food and mechanically sealed on the same line. This type of PVC food and beverage packaging will be captured in the third tranche of regulations, coming into force in 2025.  

Polystyrene takeaway packaging for food and beverages (plastic type 6) 

This ban includes polystyrene used to package food or beverages for immediate consumption – for example, some sushi trays and some takeaway containers from a hospitality venue (eg restaurant, café or other food and beverage takeaway outlet).  

Polystyrene used to package retail products (such as chilled packs of yoghurt or sour cream pottles) are not included at this stage – although they will be captured in the third tranche of bans in 2025. 

Polystyrene drink lids are also not included. We are currently working on a plan for phasing out single-use cups and lids and will consider polystyrene drink lids through this work. 

Expanded polystyrene food and beverage packaging (plastic type 6) 

This ban includes all expanded polystyrene food and beverage packaging sold at retail. This includes both food service ware (like takeaway foamed clamshells and bowls) and grocery products (such as instant noodle containers or a foamed cup multi-pack). 

Expanded polystyrene bins (which are sold at wholesale) used to transport items such as kiwifruit or seafood through the cold chain are not included. 

Exemptions – There are a few exemptions to plastic stemmed cotton buds. They are exempt from the ban when used: 

  • as a medical device (defined by section 3A of the Medicines Act) and not sold as retail 
  • in a veterinary clinic for diagnosis or sampling 
  • in a commercial food laboratory for food sampling 
  • in a laboratory for scientific investigation 
  • as part of a testing kit for medical or scientific matter, including for infection or immunity and to produce a result without analysis at a laboratory (eg, as part of a Covid-19 RAT test). 

There will be two more phase-outs that will expand the list of items banned, including plastic straws, tableware and food labels.

The Government will release guidelines for businesses before each phase.

For more information, please go to the Ministry for the Environment website.

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