Govt proposal to ban wide range of single-use plastic items world-leading

By Takeaway Throwaways

Takeaway Throwaways applauds the August announcement by Associate Minister Eugenie Sage, proposing phase-outs of a wide range of single-use plastics. Items targeted include multiple serviceware products - from bowls, plates, straws, stirrers, cutlery, cups and lids, and sushi trays.

“This is one of the most wide-ranging proposals to tackle single-use plastics that we have seen anywhere in the world. It’s an absolute win for communities and Papatūānuku,” says Takeaway Throwaways Policy Spokesperson, Hannah Blumhardt.

“Not only does the proposal suggest bans on many of the kinds of single-use plastic items that our campaign and petition calls for, it also reflects our demand that bans include bio-based plastics, compostable, degradable and biodegradable plastics.”

“This is the right call - enormous confusion and a lack of infrastructure plagues compostable, degradable and biodegradable products. Even if a particular product is genuinely compostable, it’s still single-use, which is unsustainable. Furthermore, compostable products that escape into the natural environment don’t break down effectively and can still harm wildlife.”

Laura Cope, Co-Founder of Takeaway Throwaways and Director of Use Your Own Cafe Directory says that the proposal has the potential to reduce costs for hospitality - vital at a time when the industry is reeling from the impact of COVID-19.

“Hospitality is forced to expend significant proportions of its takings on these single-use products. By banning them, the Government is helping to normalise a culture of reuse and removing an economic burden on cafes and eateries. This move also encourages customers to make time to stay, increasing community connectivity and resilience” says Cope.

Takeaway Throwaways is encouraging the public to participate in the consultation process and make submissions in support of the proposals, while highlighting areas where the proposals could be strengthened.

“We’re disappointed that disposable coffee cups are excluded from the proposed phase-outs. This is a massive, unnecessary waste stream - New Zealanders go through 295 million single-use coffee cups a year,” says Cope.

“The Government announcement justifies excluding coffee cups by citing a lack of alternatives. UYO has over 40 cafes listed on our Directory that are entirely free of single-use cups - it can be done and it’s already a reality. Many reusable alternatives exist, and hospitality outlets will confirm that they now serve coffee to an increasingly waste-aware public. ” 

“Customers can bring their own cup or dine in and have their drink in an in-house ceramic cup or glass. Even under Alert Levels 2 and 3, cafes can serve ‘contactless coffee’ into a BYO cup. We’ve also seen a growth in cup loaning reuse schemes, like Again Again, CupCycling, Good to Go on Waiheke Island, Wanakup in Wanaka, or The Koha Jar Project in Grey Lynn.”

Cope says that these schemes are capable of complimenting a phase-out of disposable coffee cups in the near future. To that end, the Takeaway Throwaways campaign strongly supports the suggestion that the Government could invest to help scale up these schemes.

“Bans are only one part of the picture. Our research shows quite clearly that while removing the single-use option is absolutely necessary, Government must also foster reusable alternatives,” says Blumhardt.

That means developing policy and funding options to make reusable alternatives more accessible and to level the playing field between single-use and reusable products. Such actions would also help build-in the resilience of safe, reusable systems that can continue even in the face of COVID-19 restrictions and other emergencies.

“New Zealand has some excellent loan and reuse schemes for coffee cups and containers, such as Again Again and Reusabowl. If we want to see more such schemes nationwide, and to see them expand into new areas like home delivery, we need infrastructure and investment for take-back and sterilisation systems.” 

Other actions that could open the door for businesses and customers to embrace reusable options are levies on single-use products that aren’t banned (of any material, not just plastic), such as the “latte levy” on disposable cups. New Zealand could also follow the lead of Berkeley, California and mandate reusable serviceware for dine-in customers.

The Government’s announcement also proposes a ban on plastic straws, with an exemption for those who require a plastic straw to drink. 

“Takeaway Throwaways chose not to campaign for a ban on plastic straws because our consultation with the disabled community indicated that having to rely on exemptions can be stigmatising for those with accessibility needs,” says Blumhardt.

“It’s extremely important that any regulations flowing from these proposals are inclusive. We support the Government’s statement that it will test the proposed exemptions through consultation to make sure they maintain the dignity of those with accessibility needs. It is critical that the consultation process ensures the active participation of the disabled community.”

The consultation will be open until 4 November 2020. Over the coming weeks, Takeaway Throwaways will be producing resources to support the public to make submissions - watch this space. In the meantime, please share this announcement far and wide.

To keep reusing in this time, check out our guidelines for reusable serviceware during Alert Level 2 and Alert Level 3.