Essentially the international market for recycled materials has collapsed because China is no longer accepting the quantity of material for recycling that they used to. Historically China has been thel argest buyer for this material and purchased over 50% of all the world's recyclables. Environmental issues are huge in China and so they have made the decision to restrict 24 types of material from being imported. New Zealand can process approximately half of the paper and cardboard that is collected here but only a small proportion of the plastic - with no significant local processing of 3-7 plastics. As a result of this we are now needing to find alternative ways we can deal with our own waste.
Why is reducing our level of waste so important now?
Are there any regulations around sustainable packaging in New Zealand?
One of the key factors affecting infrastructure in New Zealand is the lack of regulations. With no regulations around what consititutes a compostable or biodegradable product, this has led to people working to different standards. Currently there are commercial and home composting standards from Australia, Europe and America. New Zealand are yet to follow one of these or create our own. Once this set it could help in developing infrastructure to deal with what we deem to be compostable or biodegradable appropriate.
Does any of this mean a zero carbon footprint?
Every item of packaging whether that be paper, cardboard, plastic or reusable has a carbon footprint and an impact on the environment. What is foten forgotten is that every single product no matter what it is made of has to be created, shipped, bought, taken home and then used or disposed of. All of these parts build up to create a carbon footprint. These vary depending on the item and as a result understanding and reducing the whole carbon footprint is what needs to be taken into regard.
What happens when biodegradable or compostable waste enters landfill?
Landfills are not designed to promote biodegradation, biodegradable or compostable plastics placed in a landfill may be broken down via anaerobic digestion, in the same way that other organic waste is. However, it is unclear if this always happens or how long it may take. This can lead to materials breaking into smaller pieces, chemicals leaching into the environment or simply objects not breaking down at all.
Can I recycle my 'biodegradable' waste?
Some types of biodegradable waste can be recycled but not others. This is because they can cause problems for recycling facilities by contaminating the items that are only suitable for recycling.
How do I deal with my compostable packaging?
There are two types of composting, commercial and home composting. Both of these provide a different environment breaking down specific materials at different rates. In New Zealand we have no composting standard but do recognise the Australian and European home composting standards. There are currently 10 commercial composting facilities accepting compostable packaging and food serviceware.
Is using biodegradable and compostable packaging the only way to help?
Moving to biodegradable or compostable packaging is not the only option for consumers. Recycling requires energy and composting doesn’t necessarily break down in landfill. Reducing your use of products or trying to re-use these as much as possible can help. This reduces the total amount of waste entering the environment and landfill.
Still have more questions?
Contact us to find out more, and see how Snell can help reduce your carbon footprint