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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: The Packaging Forum

A recent survey of compostable packaging stakeholders by The Packaging Forum shows that between them they have completed over 100 compostable packaging projects in the last five years, with another 81 in progress and 85 more planned.

Yet there has been little progress made on developing a viable end-of-life solution for compostable packaging at the scale New Zealand requires. This according to Kim Renshaw of Beyond the Bin, who is project manager for The Packaging Forum’s Compostable Technical Advisory Group (CTAG).

What’s needed for progress to happen, she says, is clear in the top six requirements identified by stakeholders:

Nationally available collections infrastructure
A labelling system
Increased processing infrastructure
An official New Zealand standard for compostability of packaging
Networking (knowledge sharing)

The CTAG is taking a collaborative approach in laying the groundwork for these to be developed and funded, she says.

“The next step is to gain an understanding of the volume of compostable packaging in the New Zealand market, and to clarify what level of investment and infrastructure is needed.”

As there is no existing data on this, the CTAG’s next survey will be asking manufacturers and importers to supply data to inform that understanding. Data will be aggregated to protect commercial sensitivity, Kim says.

“As public opinion has turned against plastics, many importers, manufacturers and brands have turned to compostable packaging as a promising solution. However, all packaging types need to end up in the right system at the end of their life to avoid causing unintended harm.”

“We’re working to overcome some complex problems such as the risk of contamination of compostable packaging with other materials, the ratios of compostable packaging that can be accepted by composters compared to other compostable material, what collection infrastructure could look like and how it could be funded,” she says.

The Forum recognises how important it is to overcome challenges and get systems in place for an increasingly popular packaging choice and will be working with all stakeholders to achieve this.

Ultimately the purpose of this work is to support Government in developing the right regulations for compostable packaging in New Zealand, ensuring the solution provides the best outcome for consumers and the environment, Kim says.

The Forum is inviting the following stakeholders to register to participate in a work programme and receive information:

Manufacturers and importer of compostable packaging
Brands and retailers who sell goods in compostable packaging
Composting collectors and processors
Brands considering switching to compostable packaging

What is compostable packaging?
Compostable packaging can be fibre or bio-based plastic. It can be rigid (e.g food service containers), flexible (e.g. chip or snack packets), or a composite of the two (e.g. takeaway coffee cups).
About The Packaging Forum:  The Packaging Forum is a member-based organisation representing the depth and breadth of the packaging industry. It operates the Glass Packaging Forum, Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme and Public Place Recycling Scheme, as well as having a number of technical advisory groups.