As of October 1st, retailers can no longer sell, provide or manufacture certain targeted packaging items* in New Zealand. The list includes single-use plastic drink stirrers, certain PVC food trays and containers, and polystyrene takeaway food and beverage packaging.
Is this just another blow to the hospitality industry, or one we’re ready for? We spoke to Fraser Hanson, General Manager of decent packaging – compostable packaging supplier to many of our favourite hospitality brands across New Zealand, the UK, and the USA.
Photo: Fraser Hanson - General Manager & Tony Small - Managing Director
First up, how will this legislation change life as we know it?
“This is one of several stages of legislation and only targets a few items or categories. We’ve known it was coming (we were part of the Packaging Forum Advisory Board that suggested the amendments) and there are alternate options readily available.”
Is banning some packaging going to fix our waste problem?
“Incredible waste management for an entire country is a big challenge. It’s not just about saying no to what we don’t want, we need things to work and we need them to be as simple and easy as possible. The tools needed to achieve that are legislation, education, and infrastructure. A lot of time and money has already gone into establishing our landfill and recycling options, but food waste doesn’t belong in either, so we need something else. Composting is the earth’s oldest waste management system and if we can re-harness it at scale, we can make a real impact.”
Is this change a result of consumers pushing or of the government pulling packaging producers and users into a more sustainable future?
“Legislation will always help to get the last few across the line but the trend away from materials like polystyrene has been years ahead of the legislation. When decent packaging launched here in 2012, it wasn’t uncommon to have polystyrene takeaway cups, trays or clamshell boxes. But back then there just wasn’t a big range to choose from. Compostable cups were relatively new, and only came in select colours and sizes. Now brands can choose from a range of quality products, colours, and styles, or custom-print their own packaging, and be proud to see customers walking down the street advertising their brands. There’s definitely a halo effect for businesses and consumers from choosing a product that has been sustainably made, and can be ‘unmade’, instead of going into landfill. A great hospitality experience considers every detail up to the last moment, and consumers influence trends with how they spend their money.”
Photo: Fraser Hanson - General Manager | watch video here (interview starts at 1.15).
But what about margin? The hospitality industry has had it tough; is this another knock to the bottom-line?
“When you’re looking at price per unit, you’re talking a matter of cents between a polystyrene item and a compostable equivalent. Yes it adds up, but it’s worth it – not just from a planet perspective, but because it takes so much time, effort, and cost, to produce great food and beverage experiences that you don’t want it ruined in the last few moments of the process. When we produce compostable products for hospitality, we make sure they’re worthy of what fills them.”
Who have been the trend setters and the game changers?
“We work with so many amazing brands and it's safe to say the majority of hospitality brands in Aotearoa are well onboard by now – but standout trend-setters over the last decade have to be the specialty coffee companies who were quick to set the experience bar high. As for game-changers; big players like the stadiums are able to have a huge impact in a single evening. For example; when Pink toured in 2018, Spark Arena was able to divert approximately 7 tonnes of packaging and food waste from landfill by ensuring all takeaways were served in compostable packaging that was collected and processed by a compliant facility. Numbers like that make you proud, and show the impact of a slick circular solution.”
So, is this it, or is there more to come?
“There’s always more! Today’s legislation change is just one of several stages; the next taking effect in 2023 and 2025. And as for the hospitality industry and those of us that support it – you can be certain of change. It’s a good thing too. Sustainability is a journey and we’ll keep on looking for ways to do things better. Our mission is as much to simplify sustainability as it is to unmake everything we make, so bring on the new, and let’s make it as easy as possible for everyone to get onboard.”
The New Zealand government announced in June 2021 the following single-use plastics will be phased-out between 2022 and 2025.
By mid-2022 - Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) meat trays, polystyrene (PS) takeaway food and beverage packaging, expanded polystyrene (EPS) food and beverage packaging, degradable plastic products, plastic drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds.
By mid-2023 - Plastic produce bags, plastic plates, bowls and cutlery, plastic straws and plastic produce labels.
By mid-2025 - All other PVC food and beverage packaging. All other PS food and beverage packaging.
More information is available on the Ministry for the Environment website.