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Kiwis recycled 20% more packaging in the past year

News Release

15th November 2007

New Zealanders recycled 20% more packaging in the past year outpacing a corresponding 8% increase in consumption.

Three years after the signing of a 5 year 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.

At the publication of the Year Three Packaging Accord progress report today, the Accord’s Chair Tony Nowell said that New Zealand’s 57% packaging recovery as a percentage of consumption compares favourably with Europe and Australia.

“To put this in perspective this year’s increase in recycling rate equates to an annual saving of around 33,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide or taking approximately 8000 cars off the road. But it is a continual challenge because as a society our consumption keeps increasing so that each of us now uses around 60kg more packaging each year than a decade ago. Whilst it would be easy to blame industry for using more packaging, packaging simply provides the protection for each new product that we choose to buy.”

This is not just a New Zealand issue of course. Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures. And increased consumption puts increased pressure on the environment.”

Mr Nowell said that whilst critics of the Packaging Accord may have appeared to have much louder voices than its supporters; the achievements outlined in this year’s report are a testament to the teamwork of all parties.

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“We have already surpassed the five-year recycling targets for paper and steel and are at least 95% of the way to achieving the targets for aluminium, glass and plastic. This achievement is down to sheer hard work. The opportunities have started to outweigh the challenges. An example of this is that the packaged goods industry and recycling operators agreed that the efficiency of kerbside collections must not be threatened by calls for container deposit legislation.”

Each sector report describes the effort that has gone into delivering these results and the partnerships that have evolved along the way.

• Glass recycling has turned around thanks to partnerships developed between industry, recycling operators and local councils which benefit from the substantial voluntary levy paid by glass manufacturers, brand owners and retailers.
• More robust data is available about the production, consumption and recovery of steel and aluminium containers. This has been possible because for the first time the manufacturers of cans; the brand owners who fill them; the supermarkets that sell them; and the scrap metal brokers, recycling operators and exporters who process them, are all part of the loop.
• Local councils and recycling operators have continued to increase kerbside collections and the types of materials that they collect resulting in better recyclability of plastics and new domestic markets opening up.
• 76% of all paperboard is recycled which puts New Zealand amongst the world leaders; and
• Consumers are increasingly aware of their role, thanks to campaigns by supermarkets to reduce the use of plastic bags and steel’s children’s cartoon Hanable the CANable.

Mr Nowell said that the Packaging Accord’s Governing Board was already looking forward to the next voluntary accord and had undertaken a strategic review of the Accord setting out what needs to happen to take this voluntary agreement beyond 2009 and to understand its continuing relevancy within the context of the Waste Minimisation and Resource Recovery Bill”

“Whilst there are those who say that a voluntary agreement is too weak or that the targets were not tough enough, the commitment shown by every member of this Accord reaffirms my view that organisations respond best if they are part of the solution. Industry is under no illusion that it has a year and a half to prove to local and central government that it is making packaging decisions that maximise recyclability; assisting with the development of new recycling markets; and incorporating recycling messages as part of its marketing.”

“But this has to be a joint challenge because as a net importer of packaged goods, materials which are recyclable overseas may not be collected for recycling in New Zealand. Local and central government have a reciprocal responsibility to ensure that people know where, what and how to recycle and to encourage new markets for recycling. The Government’s proposed public place recycling and the decision by Auckland and Manukau councils to build Australasia’s most high tech recycling centre will assist in this process.”


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