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Packaging gives products an eco-edge in markets

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister of Environment

15 April 2008 Speech Notes

Embargoed until:8.15am

Packaging gives products an eco-edge in markets


Environment Minster Trevor Mallard's speech to the New Zealand Packaging Accord One Day Seminar, The Conference Centre, AUT Tech Park.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about environmental sustainability – an issue that in a short period of time has substantially grown in profile and is now grabbing the attention of communities, business, governments, consumers and individuals around the world.

For New Zealand to prosper, environmental sustainability must be an integral part of doing business. Adjusting for example to a price on carbon is only one aspect of this.

Change is also being brought about by a shift in consumer expectations. More and more, consumers are interested in not just what a product or service does, but also in how it is produced and packaged. The power of consumers to drive demand for sustainable products and services is a force for change we would be very foolish to ignore.

There are many excellent examples of initiatives undertaken by businesses to improve the environmental impact of their products and packaging. The Packaging Accord, the reason why we are all here today, is one of them.

I understand that today you will hear from companies such as Fonterra and Coca-Cola Amatil who have undertaken a range of initiatives to improve their environmental practices.

But it is not just large, well known businesses doing great things.

At the 2007 Environmental Packaging Awards, Manaia Mist Paper Solutions won the supreme award for their kiwifruit packaging.

This award recognised the innovation the company had put into the design and development of their packaging. These types of innovations are winners not just because they are environmentally friendly but because they deliver better products and thus better results.

For New Zealand to become sustainable and have zero waste, dealing with waste needs a stronger, more concerted effort.

There are currently two new pieces of legislation in train at parliament that tackle these issues - the Waste Minimisation Bill and a bill covering the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Both are bold and forward looking and will ensure the New Zealand brand, which is invaluable for your products, continues to be associated with environmental sustainability.

The bills also use flexible mechanisms so that businesses can be part of the solution, rather than having it imposed on them.

Let me discuss the Waste Minimisation Bill in more detail.

A key element of this bill is product stewardship. This involves producers, brand owners, importers, retailers, consumers and other parties taking responsibility for the environmental effects of their products.

The provisions for product stewardship in the bill aim to get businesses to create their own solutions to protect the environment. The government’s role is to encourage business to take on product stewardship and ensure their solutions will minimise waste.

The bill will build on the good progress made so far by the product stewardship schemes covered by the Packaging Accord, Paintwise, Vodafone, Fisher and Paykel and Agrecovery.

In many of these cases participants have been restricted on how far they can go to make their product sustainable. Free riders, a lack of waste recovery options and not enough recognition of the impact of waste minimisation have constrained efforts.

The bill is designed to address all of these issues and to enable all product stewardship schemes can reach their full potential.

Another element of the bill is a proposed levy on all waste to landfill.

The revenue from the levy will be used to help communities and businesses address waste issues. It will create a contestable fund that will catalyse investment in waste minimisation, providing new sources of recycled material and new opportunities for your products to be reduced, reused and recycled.

Apart from introducing new legislation for all New Zealanders, the Labour-led government is also providing leadership to help businesses on their path to sustainability.

More and more, the public service is using its purchasing power to reward businesses that supply sustainable goods and services. This will set the norm for how the public service does business in the future.

To date, standards and criteria for the purchase of paper, timber and wood products, travel and light fittings have been launched. Further standards and criteria for products including textiles, information and communication technologies, cleaning products and buildings are being prepared.

Packaging is an integral part of many of these products and so those companies wanting to supply to the state sector will be looking to the packaging industry to provide packaging that complements the sustainability of their products.

The purchasing power of the state sector is significant – an estimated $14-20 billion every year - using the OECD calculation of government procurement as being 10 to 15 per cent of GDP.

You have already been addressing these issues through supply chain initiatives some of which will be presented today. I encourage you to think beyond these.

While saying this, businesses are realising the importance of promoting their green credentials to customers. There is a risk that consumers are becoming tired or confused by the abundance of claims and certifications. You may be in this situation yourself when considering suppliers.

To ensure you get the maximum brand potential of your hard efforts, and are sure of the integrity of your suppliers, the government is working to provide an eco-verification system that will verify claims. The Ministry for Economic Development is leading this work.

The system will involve tools to enable clear verification of all goods and services – so it is a rather ambitious job. It will provide consumers with confidence that products with ecolabels have actually been assessed correctly. Steady progress is being made in this area, and a directory of eco-labels that are in use has been developed and will be available soon.

Back to the Packaging Accord and my expectations of the packaging industry.

The current Packaging Accord ends next year and it is time to start thinking about what will follow it. Even though there is new product stewardship legislation around the corner, I am happy to tell you that I am prepared to consider a further voluntary scheme - provided it will achieve more than mandatory approaches could.

You all have a role to play in the development process ahead. I expect the industry to take the lead here, with government setting clear expectations for the scheme and assisting you in making it transparent and equitable.

It is crucial that all stakeholders have a chance to contribute – industry, consumers, government, recyclers, councils and the community.

I challenge you to set bold objectives and develop an approach that will have the confidence of all New Zealanders.


ENDS

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