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Packaging Accord Delivers Record 60% Packaging Recycling Rate

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

14 October 2008 - Four years into the 5 year Packaging Accord (2004) signed between the Packaging Council, the Ministry for the Environment, Local Government New Zealand and the Recycling Operators of New Zealand, the individual targets set for every type of packaging and container have been met or exceeded.

At the publication of its fourth progress report today, the Accord's Chair Tony Nowell said that New Zealand's 60% packaging recovery rate as a percentage of consumption is ahead or on a par with that achieved in the European Union, USA and Australia.

"We are collecting a massive 69,000 tonnes more packaging each year than we did at the outset. To put this in perspective this is the equivalent of 8 football fields of packaging diverted from landfill for use either to create new packaging or to make new products. Packaging which is necessary to protect and preserve our food and grocery products from point of manufacture to the end consumer."

"Since the start of the Accord consumption has increased by 5.4% but is slowing whilst packaging recovery has increased in the same period by 17% and is continuing to outstrip consumption. Households are recycling more with a wider range of materials collected at kerbside which are being processed through more technologically advanced facilities."

Mr Nowell said that one of the principal challenges identified at the start of the Accord process was the need to develop commercially viable markets for recovered materials and he reported that new markets in New Zealand and internationally now have an estimated economic value of around $100 million based on today's market prices.

"In particular markets have opened up globally for grades of plastics which were previously not collected. This will help stimulate further recycling. And we shouldn't apologize for using global markets. Economic viability is a key part of sustainability - recycling is an industry which has to make money to survive. Recovered materials trade as commodities just as virgin materials such as pulp and oil do and as such will be part of a competitive international market. However it is worth noting that as with all tradable commodities values will fluctuate with global demand. Developing markets will one day be able to meet much of their own demand through increased domestic consumption."

Mr Nowell said that organisations must balance economic, environmental and social sustainability:

"Whilst recovery targets were paramount in 2004, today we are also being asked how the Packaging Accord is dealing with carbon footprint and company's ethical behaviour. The answers to all of these questions are complex. Doing business with developing markets comes with risks attached. As a packaged goods industry we have a responsibility to ensure that we source packaging materials and subsequently recycle them with both social and environmental considerations in mind. We cannot simply send our own problems offshore. This is not what New Zealanders expect when they put out their packaging for recycling."

"In addition to international markets we must also continue to commercialise new recycling businesses here. But we need critical mass to compete globally. Instead as small players on the world stage we are the recipients of choices which other countries make about packaging. Imported products account for about 50% of the packaging we consume in New Zealand. We need to manage the environmental quality of the imported product and its packaging and ensure its recyclability in our market."

Mr Nowell said that whilst all the signatories to the Packaging Accord await the impact which the product stewardship requirements of the Waste Minimisation Act will have on a subsequent Accord or on individual sectors it is worth remembering that under a voluntary mechanism New Zealand has achieved a recycling rate which is comparable with countries that have adopted mandatory targets.

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