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Nanaia Mahuta - Packaging Accord year 3 Progress

Hon Nanaia Mahuta

Associate Minister for the Environment
Address to
Packaging Accord year 3 Progress Report Forum
15 November, Novotel Ellerslie, Greenlane, Auckland, 8.30am

8.30am 15 November

Mihi

(To be provided by Minister)

Introduction:

Kia Ora and Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to be here, to help celebrate a successful year for the Packaging Accord.

This event is a great opportunity to meet people from organisations and business that play a vital part in dealing with the environmental issues of packaging.

WasteMINZ Conference:
Last week, I launched the WasteMINZ Conference and it was evident that there is an increasing momentum to ensure innovative opportunities to make sustainability a real choice for local government and communities. The government is a key partner in this vision.


The Accord’s Achievements:
The Packaging Accord was set up three years ago with the aim of reducing waste from packaging. Reducing waste is one of the most important things we can do to protect our environment. A recent opinion survey reported that 89 per cent of New Zealanders think the amount of waste we send to landfill is a problem – half of those thought it was an urgent problem.

But a simple aim doesn’t mean a simple job. The Accord was tasked with the challenge of bringing together diverse stakeholders – councils, recyclers, manufacturers, government and retailers – to reduce the environmental impact of a product that is everywhere in our lives today.

Three years down the track, we can conclude it has done well, reflecting the commitment and achievements of the signatories to the Accord. Some highlights I would like to mention are that the overall recovery of packaging has hit a new high, of 57 per cent, which is significantly higher than last year.

Also, the recent 2007 Awards for Excellence for Environmentally Acceptable Packaging, showed an industry demonstrating an abundance of innovation and the drive to turn it into reality. Maniaia Mist, the company that designed the Supreme Award winning kiwifruit tray made out of wood and kiwifruit pulp, was a brilliant example.

Other highlights were the purchasing of a mobile glass crusher, supported by the Glass Packaging Forum, the Make a Difference plastic bag recycling campaign, supported by the supermarket retailers, “Hanable the Can-able”, the steel can sector’s novel new spokesperson to encourage children to recycle and Plastics New Zealand’s Design for the environment guidelines, which the former Environment Minister launched earlier this year.

We have also enjoyed other great successes in 2007. In February, the Prime Minister announced new sustainability priorities for the government with six new initiatives:

• Waste minimisation and management
• The household sustainability programme
• A carbon neutral public service
• Sustainable government procurement
• Enhanced eco-verification, and
• Business partnerships for sustainability

The first three projects – waste management, household sustainability, and a carbon neutral public service – are being led by the Ministry for the Environment. Waste minimisation and management work includes progressing the waste levy, enhancing product stewardship, and implementing more public recycling facilities.

These initiatives are based on our aspiration to be the first country that is truly sustainable. Sustainability should become a core value and a central part of our national identity in the 21st century.

The move to a more sustainable New Zealand is based on two factors. First are the opportunities emerging from a global market that puts a higher value on environmental integrity. Second are the risks arising from the environmental challenge the world faces today and in the future.

Importance of the Accord:
For the government, the Accord is an excellent example of product stewardship and of industry and government working together. The Packaging Accord has served as a model for other businesses to take responsibility for the goods they produce and develop their own product stewardship schemes.

Some have asked why so much importance has been placed on packaging as an environmental issue. It is certainly true that packaging is not the largest contributor to the waste stream.

But it’s a visible part of our everyday life, and that means it is important that it is responsibly disposed of. Also, the packaging sector’s strong growth means that, if we are not careful, packaging could easily become a greater contributor of what we send to landfill. In the last decade, packaging consumption per person has increased by a third.

And, we need to be mindful that, as we seek to set domestic standards for packaging, the beneficial consequences for our export industries could also support the efforts in our communities of interest like Australian and the Pacific nations.

I am pleased that New Zealand business has taken to product stewardship, achieving some world beating accomplishments. We are the only country with nationwide voluntary takeback of paint, and have one of the highest paperboard recycling rates in the world.

Examples like these give me the confidence that the Prime Minister’s challenge for New Zealand to become the first sustainable country in the world can become a reality.

Government’s role in improving the environment:
The government is doing its part by setting up the systems and support necessary to resolve major environmental issues. Our plans for an emissions trading scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the New Zealand Energy Strategy are working towards reducing New Zealand’s carbon footprint. The public service is using its purchasing power to reward businesses that supply sustainable goods and services.

Reducing waste is, as I mentioned before, also an important environmental focus and the government wants to deal with waste effectively to ensure the true sustainability of our country.

As you all know, we are progressing proposals for waste minimisation and resource recovery legislation through Parliament. It is heartening to see that New Zealanders are overwhelmingly in support of what we would like to see happen. A follow-up to the survey I mentioned earlier revealed that almost 70 per cent of all Kiwis are prepared to pay a waste levy to minimise waste.

Another element of our proposals is legislation for product stewardship. Instead of concentrating on just one type of regulation or product group, we have designed legislation that is flexible and far-sighted enough not to just deal with the challenges of today, but deal with those that will challenge us tomorrow.

The proposed legislation is at the cutting edge of what is being developed around the world, and will provide New Zealand with an excellent base to meet the waste minimisation challenges ahead of us in a rational, timely and effective manner.

Of course there are contrary viewpoints and the Select Committee considerations are providing an excellent forum for robust and vigorous debate to ensure we get the best legislation possible. It is important in this debate that we keep our focus on the wider issues and use this opportunity for future-thinking – avoiding the temptations of narrow, single-issue debates.

Also as part of the government’s efforts to help New Zealanders reduce their waste, we are setting up four trials for recycling in public places. The Packaging Council has shown interest in our initiative and I would like to encourage a collective involvement in making recycling in public places a reality in New Zealand.

Our funding will provide for 600 bins. We are keen to see other third parties come on board to expand the reach of this programme.

The future:
With such great achievements, of acknowledged importance, I hope the signatories to the Accord do not see these results as an opportunity to rest on their laurels. The Packaging Accord targets have nearly been achieved – some have already been. The question is no longer whether we can meet these targets, but can we exceed them?

And, looking further ahead, discussions about a third accord have already started. With such stunning results, I am not surprised you want to continue the good work.

New Zealanders have voiced their expectations about preserving and building upon our clean green brand. We must set bold targets in order to live up to these expectations, and packaging should be no exception. I encourage the packaging sector to challenge the assumption of some that regulation is the only way to achieve these bold targets.

To be truly sustainable in packaging through voluntary partnerships would put New Zealand at the forefront of environmental achievers.

Conclusion:
Once again, thank you for inviting me here this morning and congratulations on the achievements of the past year. I look forward to hearing of many further, shared achievements in the future.

ENDS

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