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Packaging Accord puts off needed legislation

8 July 2004

Voluntary Packaging Accord puts off needed legislation

Green MP Mike Ward welcomes the Government's announcement this afternoon that it has approved the renewed Packaging Accord, but says the voluntary deal is simply putting off the day a compulsory regime is introduced.

"The Government can obviously see there is a packaging problem, but they're not dealing with it with anywhere near enough urgency," said Mr Ward, the Green Party's Waste-free Spokesperson.

"The problem with a voluntary accord is that those who comply with it are taking on an extra cost that those who opt out can avoid. So while I generally prefer people to have choice in life, with an issue such as producers' responsibility for waste, compulsion is really required. Given the finite limits of our environment, legislation is basically inevitable, so the Government should just bite the bullet and get on with drafting the necessary laws now.

"We need to change the culture round waste and there are a number of painless compulsory measures that would gently move society and industry in the right direction. Things such as the plastic bag levy that has been so successfully implemented in Ireland and container deposit legislation, which has resulted in 80 to 90 per cent re-use in several US states, South Australia, Finland and Switzerland, would be a start. We should also require standardisation of packaging and clearer labelling so that recovery and reuse is much easier.

"Ultimately though, we need to transform our basic economic model so people more readily choose to 'buy local'. Localised production and consumption reduces the need for packaging and increases the suitability of things like reusable glass containers."

"New Zealand's updated Accord will probably only achieve the same outcomes as the first one in 1996. Recycling may increase and the weight going into landfills may stay constant, but there will be no reduction in the total amount of packaging being produced, with all its associated energy costs, or any serious reduction in the volume being buried, which when you're talking about a limited area of land to fill, is what really matters," said Mr Ward.

South Australia's Zero Waste Authority chief, Vaughan Levitzke, recently said: "Do not misjudge the inability of the industry to comply with a voluntary system. Experience in Australia shows that our Covenant was not strong enough with regard to action plans submitted by companies (i.e. no auditing of actual outcomes); it did not enforce its own code of practice (i.e. allowed non-recyclable containers to be produced and sold); had no promotion either among industry or the public; funding was too narrowly focused to kerb-side recycling; and has effectively delayed a legislative solution."

Mr Ward will be stepping up pressure on the packaging issue ahead of the Accord signing next month. Media advisories will follow for events being coordinated around the country with the Envision New Zealand Trust.


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