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Kiwi milk company calls for the government to rethink recycling plan

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A New Zealand milk producer is calling for the Government to standardise kerbside recycling across the country, while sparing thousands of tonnes of packaging from going to landfill.

Otis, the New Zealand oat milk producer, says currently what is accepted for recycling in Hamilton is different to Dunedin, or Invercargill, Auckland or Wellington. The business says standardisation will provide greater clarity to New Zealanders and increase recycling habits.

The Kiwi start-up highlights most plant-based milks like Otis are packaged in Liquid Paper board packaging (LPB, commonly known as Tetra Pak) which has been excluded from the Government's proposed kerbside recycling plan despite being shown to be the lowest carbon packaging option available, and capable of being made completely free of fossil fuels.

Hayley Pardoe, Otis head of marketing and sustainability, believes the Government’s recycling proposal needs to set the course for how we manage packaging resources through our economy for the coming next decades, yet some of the plan is at odds with the low carbon, circular future that New Zealanders are demanding.

"In New Zealand we now have the option to upcycle ‘Tetra’ and soft plastic through SaveBOARD, a Kiwi company that turns rubbish such as coffee cups and our packaging into much needed building materials - think plaster board and roofing substrates made from cartons. Upcycling LPB cartons can help to solve the major building supply shortage.

"This is a circular economy at its best and it’s available in New Zealand right now. It’s disappointing that LPB has been left out of the Government’s kerbside recycling plan when we know that plant-based milks packaged in LPB are predominantly drunk at home as a lower carbon alternative to dairy, or due to health, cultural or religious reasons."

Pardoe says while LPB is excluded from the kerbside recycling proposal, cow’s milk beverage containers almost all made entirely from fossil fuels, are included in the plan.

"The dairy industry uses mostly plastic packaging which 99% of plastic is made from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels - they are the real winner in this proposal and not Aotearoa’s environment or future generations. Plant milks, of which the majority use LPB, have been left out."

Plant milks are shown to have a substantially lower environmental footprint to dairy milk ( and their popularity is on the rise globally - Pardoe says the proposed kerbside plan is neither future proof or in line with a low carbon future.

"We’ve heard that including LPB in kerbside recycling will cost too much, in particular to modify the recovery centres where kerbside recycling goes to get sorted, and it will put extra costs on councils to have it included in their collection contracts. We know the long term cost of continuing to support the use of fossil fuels and our intensive dairy industry over lower carbon alternatives will be far greater on our whenua - and the bottom line."

Pardoe’s message to Councils and the Government is that if they are serious about delivering solutions to our climate crisis, they have to invest in it.

"As the global climate crisis continues to worsen climate scientists are desperately trying to engage more global citizens to adopt low-carbon diets, and plant-based milks in low carbon packaging are critical to this.

"Plant-based milk consumption is rapidly growing globally, and is predicted to rise for many years to come. New Zealand’s recycling plan needs to be fit for this low-carbon future. Now is the time for decision-makers to invest in the infrastructure New Zealand needs to lead a circular and zero-carbon economy."

She says Otis’ vision for the future isn’t a lofty ideal.

"It’s our company’s north star and as we see it, well within New Zealand’s reach. It’s no secret that Otis envision a future where intensive dairy and its harmful effects on our environment is a thing of the past. A future where agriculture is more diverse and restorative and where plant based milk isn’t a choice for the few but a viable alternative for the many.

"What we are calling for is a recycling system with foresight; a system that uses what we currently have available to be fit for our future, not entrenched in our past. A system which encourages and support start-ups like ourselves who are trying to do good for our nation and our environment."

Otis says the Ministry of Environment is asking for feedback on the recycling proposal: The oat milk maker is encouraging New Zealanders to have their say about the future of our recycling nation by making a submission before 22 May.

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