In an effort to reduce plastic waste and promote sustainability, New Zealand is implementing regulations that restrict the sale and use of certain single-use plastic items starting from 1st July 2023. These measures aim to encourage the adoption of more environmentally friendly alternatives while still considering the needs of individuals with disabilities and specific health conditions. Let’s take a closer look at the restricted products, permitted entities, alternatives, and steps businesses can take to comply with these regulations.
Restricted Product: Single-Use Plastic Drinking Straws
From 1st July 2023, the sale of single-use plastic drinking straws containing any type of plastic, including compostable or biodegradable plastic, will be limited. However, exemptions apply to disabled individuals and those with health conditions who still require plastic straws for nutrition, independence, or social inclusion reasons. Reusable plastic straws, such as silicone straws, are not affected by these restrictions. Additionally, single-use plastic drinking straws attached to beverage boxes by machines or those that are an integral part of the packaging will be exempt until 1st January 2026.
Permitted Entities to Sell or Provide Single-Use Plastic Drinking Straws
While the use of single-use plastic drinking straws is being restricted, a wide range of alternatives is available. Reusable straws made of metal or silicone, as well as paper straws, are suitable alternatives. Additionally, going without a straw altogether is encouraged whenever possible.
Banned Products: Single-Use Plastic Tableware and Cutlery
Starting from 1st July 2023, the sale and manufacture of single-use plastic tableware and cutlery made predominantly of plastic, including recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable plastic, will not be permitted. This ban includes single-use plastic bowls, plates, platters, forks, spoons, teaspoons, knives, chopsticks, and cutlery integral to food packaging.
Exclusions and Alternatives
The ban does not include plastic containers that are part of a container with a lid or plastic items not used for eating or preparing food, such as measuring spoons or scoops for medicine, supplements, or washing powder. Alternative options include tableware and cutlery made of other materials like paper, bamboo, or sugarcane pulp that may be lined with plastic. Single-use plastic cups, except for those made from expanded polystyrene, which were already banned in October 2022, are also not included in the ban.
Banned Product: Single-Use Plastic Produce Bags
From 1st July 2023, the sale and manufacture of single-use plastic produce bags will be prohibited. This ban includes unsealed plastic bags provided by stores or retailers for packing fresh fruits and vegetables. The ban encompasses bags made of recyclable, biodegradable, plant-based, or compostable plastic.
Exclusions and Alternatives
The ban does not apply to plastic bags that are part of the packaging for pre-packaged produce. Pre-packaged produce refers to fruits or vegetables that are bagged before being put on sale. Alternatives to single-use plastic produce bags include fibre-based (paper) produce bags and reusable produce bags that are not designed for single-use. Customers can also choose to go without a bag when selecting produce.
The government’s move to ban single-use plastic is a welcome one. It will go a long way towards reducing the amount of plastic waste that pollutes our oceans and rivers and harms marine life. But it’s only the first step in solving this problem, and there are still many challenges ahead if we’re going to make a dent in the growing pile of non-biodegradable plastics cluttering up our world today.
So if you run a business and you’re still using single-use packaging, now is the time to make the switch.