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Plastics “Recycling” Plan Will Increase Plastic Pollution

Zero Waste Network and Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance

“It’s extremely disappointing to see the government and several large companies choosing to throw money at an experimental, risky and carbon-intensive technology that will only increase plastic, climate and chemical pollution, rather than reduce it” says Sue Coutts of the Zero Waste Network.

Technology company Licella, along with cardboard packaging and paper recycler Oji Fibre Solutions, on-farm plastic recycler Plasback, Silver Fern Farms, and Woolworths New Zealand, with money from the Ministry for the Environment’s Plastics Innovation Fund announced a joint feasibility study of a local plastics recycling industry.

“This is just another ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, another way of disposing of a mess that we shouldn’t be creating in the first place. This isn’t innovation,” says Sue Coutts of the Zero Waste Network.

“Investigating - or worse, piloting - advanced chemical recycling, or ‘plastics-to-oil’ technology buys time for the plastics and packaging industries to keep pumping out ever larger volumes of plastic and contaminated waste plastics,” said Liam Prince, chair of the Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance.

“The technology would enable industry to pretend they are “solving” the plastic solution, while in reality they are doing the opposite by continuing to benefit from the artificial cheapness of plastic packaging without any responsibility for the pollution that is caused across the entire lifespan of plastics.”

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“This study does nothing to address the root causes and key harms of plastic pollution, which go far beyond plastics’ end-of-life. The claims about the benefits of so-called ‘advanced recycling’ are rife with greenwashing. They fail to mention that this is an experimental, risky technology with a high carbon footprint.”

“These kinds of activities should not be subsidised using public funds. It is reasonable to expect that companies that decide to use business models that create large volumes of waste plastic that is too contaminated or hard to recycle should take responsibility for covering all of the costs associated with dealing with it at end of life,” says Sue Coutts.

“The obvious solutions are available by looking upstream: designing waste and pollution out of the economy and corporate business models so that we don’t have to waste a lot of money and time managing problems we did not need to create in the first place. Innovation would be developing industry-ready reusable packaging systems, and the use of more readily recycled and safe materials that are managed by properly funded nation-wide resource recovery network.”

“Time and time again, New Zealanders say that plastic pollution is a major concern. Yet central government and corporate New Zealand has not been willing to meet these concerns with real action to reduce plastic production. So we will continue to see growing harm including damage to ecosystems and fenceline communities from the extraction of oil for plastics, and the hazardous pollution caused by plastic products as they flow through our economies, particularly shedding microplastics and leaching chemical additives,” says Liam Prince

“Funding of this study is out-of-step with the ambition of many countries, including Aotearoa New Zealand, for a strong international Agreement to End Plastic Pollution, currently being negotiated through the United Nations. The NZ Government has frequent and free access to independent scientific advice specifically warning against these false solutions. Ending plastic pollution starts with reducing plastic production, not building new and expensive ways to perpetuate its use.”

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