A first chance to recycle soft plastic packaging

The Packaging Forum today hosted the Hon Dr Nick Smith Minister for the Environment, politicians, businesses, officials from local and central government and community groups at the launch of the Soft Plastics Recycling Programme at New World, Mt Roskill in Auckland. The programme has brought together New World, PAK’nSAVE, Countdown and The Warehouse and some of New Zealand’s leading food and grocery brands to introduce drop off recycling facilities at stores so that consumers can recycle a whole range of soft plastic bags and packaging which until now have gone to landfill.

The Packaging Forum today hosted the Hon Dr Nick Smith Minister for the Environment, politicians, businesses, officials from local and central government and community groups at the launch of the Soft Plastics Recycling Programme at New World, Mt Roskill in Auckland. The programme has brought together New World, PAK’nSAVE, Countdown and The Warehouse and some of New Zealand’s leading food and grocery brands to introduce drop off recycling facilities at stores so that consumers can recycle a whole range of soft plastic bags and packaging which until now have gone to landfill.

Over the past month the eye-catching new recycling bins designed and manufactured using recycled plastics by Pioneer Group in Whangarei have been installed at 70 New World, PAK’nSAVE,The Warehouse and Countdown stores in Auckland.

The programme has received $700,000 from the Government’s Waste Minimisation Fund to match funding by industry. After an initial trial in Auckland, it will expand over three years to Hamilton, Wellington, Canterbury, Otago, Bay of Plenty, Manawatu and other regions.

Lyn Mayes, Project Manager said:

“4.3 million soft plastic bags are being thrown away every day in New Zealand and these can all be recycled through this new programme. We take all soft plastic bags including bread bags, frozen food bags, toilet paper packaging, confectionery and biscuit wrap, chip bags, pasta and rice bags, courier envelopes, shopping bags, and sanitary hygiene wrap- basically anything made of plastic which can be scrunched into a ball.

“There’s a common perception that this is just about plastic shopping bags which is wrong. Plastic shopping bags are a discretionary item which you can take or leave but soft plastic packaging is required to protect and preserve many products. We are asking people to collect their packaging at home and drop it into the Love NZ Soft Plastics Recycling bins at their local participating stores when they next go shopping so we can recycle it.”

The operational programme is being run by RED Group who developed a similar programme in Australia. The packaging will be collected from store by Abilities Group and processed and baled and initially sent to Australian manufacturer Replas where it is made into new products.

Andrew Hewett, Chair of The Packaging Forum said:-

“In less than six months the Packaging Forum and the teams at New World, PAK’nSAVE, The Warehouse and Countdown along with RED Group, Abilities and leading brands have turned a concept to recycle soft plastic packaging into reality. Competitors are collaborating to bring this new recycling initiative first to Aucklanders but with an anticipated roll out to provide access to recycling for soft plastics for over 70% New Zealanders.

“There is a view that if it is voluntary it can’t work but over the past decade The Packaging Forum has shown what can be achieved through industry led voluntary product stewardship programmes where those involved in the life- cycle of a product choose to share responsibility for end of life outcome at best cost. In addition to funding from The Packaging Forum and the participating retailers, this programme is supported by Cottonsoft, Goodman Fielder, Kimberly-Clark, Nestle, NZ Post, Pams, Simplot, Sunrice, Amcor, Astron, Elldex and Replas and we hope more brands will get involved to sustain momentum.”

The results from the first audit on the packaging collected from stores show that:-
• Around 1 tonne of plastic packaging equivalent to around 250,000 units has been collected in the first month and diverted from landfill;
• 58% bags returned are single use plastic bags; and
• 34% are food/grocery packaging for example toilet roll wrap, rice and pasta bags, frozen food packaging and bread bags.

Liz Kasell, Director RED Group said:

“The early results from Auckland are tracking very closely to the launch in Perth which has a similar number of stores launching the programme at the same time. Like building any good habit, it takes a minimum of around 12 weeks for consumers to adopt new behaviour which will see volumes of recovered packaging increase significantly. We can expect to see an average of six to eight bin liners full of plastic bags and packaging per week per store once things get rolling equivalent to around 10,000 units of packaging. Across all participating stores in Auckland this would divert around 3 million units of soft plastic packaging from landfill every month.”

To celebrate the initiative, Minister Smith presented a seat made by Replas from soft plastic bags to students from nearby Blockhouse Bay Junior School for them to use in their playground.

Programme Partners

Foodstuffs
Foodstuffs (NZ) Limited is New Zealand's largest grocery retailer employing over 30,000 people nationwide. It is a proudly 100% New Zealand owned and operated organisation, made up of North and South Island co-operatives with over 700 retail outlets including 139 New World, 52 PAK’nSAVE, 277 Four Square stores located throughout the country. Steve Anderson, Managing Director, Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd says, “Foodstuffs is fully committed to sustainability and is always looking for new ways to reduce waste - an extensive waste management plan was launched in 2014 and has seen stores on the programme achieve recycling rates of up to 90%.”

Progressive Enterprises
Countdown has 181 stores around New Zealand, serving 2.7 million customers every week. We have a team of 18,000 Kiwis. Countdown has in place a strong waste reduction and recycling programme. Since 2006, Countdown has reduced waste to landfill by 43%, while having 37% more selling space. Countdown has also increased its recycling rate by 39% since 2006, recycling 2.3 times more than they send to the landfill. Countdown General Manager of Strategy and Corporate Affairs Richard Manaton, says “The benefit of being a part of the Soft Plastics Recycling programme is that it includes all those involved in the life-cycle of plastic packaging, the manufacturers, distributors and consumers.”

The Warehouse
Simon Turner, CEO of The Warehouse is thrilled the community can start to benefit from a soft plastics recycling service at its stores. “At The Warehouse, supporting communities and the environment is part of our key strategic focus. Soft plastics pose an ongoing environmental challenge which we as a business are committed to, and we’re proud to partner with The Packaging Forum to bring this recycling solution to the community. I’m looking forward to seeing it roll out to other parts of the country over the next few years.”

RED Group is a Melbourne-based consulting and recycling organisation that's developed and implemented an innovative recycling initiative, the REDcycle Program. The programme provides a recovery and recycling solution for postconsumer and retail soft plastic packaging, diverting it from landfill and using it instead as a resource for Australian-made recycled products for schools and communities. Since the launch of the REDcycle Program in 2011, RED Group has collected enough pieces of soft post-consumer packaging to circle Australia two and a half times. RED Group is pleased to be a foundation partner of New Zealand’s Soft Plastic Recycling Programme.

Abilities was established in 1959 to provide meaningful work and the opportunity for personal development for people with disabilities and the Glenfield based organization now employs over 130 people who might struggle to find paid work otherwise.

Replas is an Australian company that’s developed world leading technology to reprocess plastic waste into a range of recycled-plastic products suitable for outdoor use, including fitness circuits, furniture, signage and bollards. All Replas products are extremely robust, as well as water and termite resistant. They won’t crack, splinter or rot and will never need painting.