Workers and consumers will be paying the price of reforms which drive up the cost of doing business if we don’t have a balanced debate on the management of the country’s waste stream, says Packaging New Zealand – one it says needs to be founded in fact, not just emotion.
Packaging New Zealand’s Executive Director Sharon Humphreys says the industry’s current challenges lie in halting the hysteria whipped up over such issues as plastics bags, which presents a very real threat of being extended to packaging generally.
“We can all find and exploit examples of poor packaging, but these should not be permitted to overshadow the industry’s strong track record of responding innovatively to customer demands and regulatory requirements, while meeting its waste management needs.
“New packaging technologies and materials can be disruptive, evidenced by the impact of 3D printing technology or printing electronics directly onto packaging material. However, the focus on continuous improvement and efficiency gains provides for gradual advances which can be equally transformative in impact, such as the significant reduction in the amount of packaging material through ‘light weighting’ or re-design.
Humphreys says the packaging industry will continue to react to the changing dynamics of trade, and the scale and speed of that change will be driven by factors which are largely outside its control.
“In this context there has never been a more urgent need for a balanced debate, because right now facts and evidence are coming a poor second to emotive images such as pictures of divers swimming through society’s detritus, and sea-life consuming plastic bags.
“Our organisation has long advocated for a broader discussion about the role of packaging alongside waste management and recycling, so it is encouraging to see that some commentators are also now seeing the merits of a more comprehensive approach to policy affecting our sector.
“Unfortunately, current attempts to lift the debate in this direction are being distracted and undermined by the very limiting focus on single issue solutions such as plastic bags. Without in anyway wanting to be dismissive of efforts to eliminate the misuse of plastic bags, an all-consuming focus on such an issue does little for the more urgent challenge of achieving the elusive national plan for waste management and recycling.”
Humphreys says Packaging New Zealand has also long held the position that there is a requirement for a national strategic plan for waste management and recycling in New Zealand, which is appropriate for the New Zealand context in terms of geographical limitations and fiscal responsibility.
“In this regard we commend the recent Local Government conference for its call for a strategic approach to the collection and processing of recyclable materials within New Zealand. We also commend its recognition that the current council-by-council approach is unlikely to achieve the economies of scale required in this space.”