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Packaging recovery rates continue to rise

11 October 2006

Packaging recovery rates continue to rise but so does the amount we are consuming says Packaging Accord’s 2ND Year progress report

Two years on from the signing of the Packaging Accord (2004) by the Packaging Council, the Ministry for the Environment, Local Government New Zealand and the Recycling Operators of New Zealand, New Zealanders are recycling more paper, plastics, glass, steel and aluminium packaging and containers than ever before. We’ve also turned a corner, with more packaging being recovered per person than goes to landfill.

Chair of the Accord, Tony Nowell believes that the Accord’s strength is bringing together parties that had previously often worked in isolation to reduce waste: - “No sector will achieve its targets without co-operation from its partners and this does present challenges because there are, and always will be, different positions taken by brand owners and retailers, recycling operators, local and central government and packaging manufacturers. By working together we have had some major successes which are recorded in our Year Two Progress report published today.”

The report highlights:-

- Paper recovery achieved an outstanding 72% recovery rate for the second year which is one of the highest recovery rates for paper in the world;
- The glass sector introduced New Zealand’s first large scale voluntary levy system to fund the research and development of alternative uses for glass. One of the early projects has been support for an amended Transit road specification which enables up to 5% glass cullet to be used in the base course for roads;
- Plastics recovery is up 12%, outpacing the 6% increase in consumption, with significant progress made in the recovery of expanded polystyrene and farm plastics;
- Launch of a world leading application of EANnet software which will ultimately provide point of sale packaging data;
- New contracts and services around the country have improved access to recycling; and
- Best practice guidelines have been developed by local and central government for waste management contracts.

These first two years were envisaged as a benchmarking period to enable each sector to identify the challenges which it has address individually and as part of the Accord team.

“Its true to say that from our respective sectors, we’ve had to look long and hard at what we are doing to see how we can deliver our collective commitment to reduce the amount of packaging waste which ends up in landfill. Over the past decade the amount of packaging recovered has increased by a staggering 116% but as a society we keep consuming more. Facing up to our role in issues such as these is not easy and sometimes it’s been an uncomfortable process, whether we come from industry, local or central government, particularly with other Accord parties there to coax you along. But we have learnt a lot in a short time.” says Nowell.

“We have to get better about talking to each other. Decisions which brand owners make about packaging design can impact on recycling operations resulting in, for example, the introduction of degradable plastics into the packaging waste stream without clear labelling or an infrastructure in place to deal with them.”

“And it’s important to remember that we are striving towards Accord targets which are influenced by changes in the local and global marketplace. Commodity prices for recovered packaging materials fluctuate, new policies such as the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill are mooted and strategy changes.

Consumption of aluminium is down due to changes in consumer preference and there has been a corresponding increase in glass and plastic consumption. But as in our own organisations, we have to work within the prevailing market conditions and anticipate future developments. It’s a challenge which will continue as we complete the remaining three years of the Accord.”
Overall in Year Two, collection rates as a percentage of consumption have slipped slightly to 52% however paper has already exceeded its target and plastics are well placed to meet theirs’. Nowell points to a number of contributing factors:-

“The Glass Forum has worked hard to develop alternative uses for glass to keep pace with growing recovery rates but new markets take time to develop. Also the introduction of collections which mix glass, steel, aluminium and plastics in one container by some councils means that glass recovered in this way has a more limited and less valuable use because of colour or physical contamination and so is less likely to be used in glass making.

“Our data collection process for steel also appears to be unreliable. Despite a major public awareness campaign, the steel recovery rates continue to decline. This simply doesn’t reflect reality based on the experience of several Accord partners so we are looking to the point of sale data to give us better information.”

Nowell believes that with everyone on board, the Accord bus is heading in the right direction: “We know what we have to do to reach our targets and it’ll be an interesting and rewarding journey for all of us.”

The Accord Year Two report is available on:- http://www.packagingaccord.org.nz/report.php

ENDS

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