New Zealand to mandate compostable stickers for imported fruit starting mid-2025

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The Government of New Zealand has passed legislation that will restrict a wide range of plastic products to be sold in New Zealand, including non-compostable produce stickers. Produce stickers for domestically-produced fruit and vegetables in New Zealand are required to be compostable by 2023, while imported produce will need to have compostable stickers by mid-2025.

In mid-2022 the Government of New Zealand introduced Waste Minimisation (Plastic and Related Products) Regulations into Parliament, which were passed into law. The stated aim of the regulations is to protect animal and plant life, and protection of the enviroment as a whole, through banning a number of plastic products. The proposed date of entry into full force of all of these regulations is 2025.

The regulations will apply to any individual, business, or retailer who sells (including suppliers) or manufactures any of the targeted plastic item(s) in New Zealand.

This includes:

  • Manufacturers
  • Businesses selling the prohibited plastics (this includes providing them for free)
  • Hospitality businesses providing these products

As part of the regulations, the Government of New Zealand has announced 3 tranches of restrictions, with some having begun on October 1, 2022, the second set to go into force in 2023, and the third set to be implemented in mid-2025

Tranche One:

The following products are no longer permitted to be sold or manufactured in New Zealand since October 1, 2022:

  1. Plastic drink stirrers.
  2. Plastic stemmed cotton buds.
  3. Oxo- and photo- degradable plastic products.
  4. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pre-formed food trays and containers.
  5. Polystyrene takeaway food and beverage packaging, for example some sushi trays and takeaway containers.
  6. Expanded polystyrene takeaway food and beverage packaging, for example foamed cups, bowls, plates, and some grocery products.
Plastic products banned from 1 October 2022 (tranche 1) and alternatives

Tranche Two (July 2023)

There are several single-use products due to be phased out in 2023. The Government documents define and explain the products for removal, as well as present alternatives for these products, and this information is included below.

  1. Plastic produce bags: A single use produce bag is something consumers see most commonly in the fruit and vegetable sections of the supermarket. They can contain any amount of plastic (including recyclable, degradable or compostable plastics) and are used for the purpose of carrying fruit or vegetables. Alternatives include reusable or paper bags. Pre-packaged produce bags that are sealed before placing on sale are not in scope for this phase out.
  2. Plastic tableware: Single-use plastic tableware is designed for use once or a limited number of times before being thrown away. Plastic tableware includes plates, bowls, platters, trays, and cutlery made primarily of any type of plastic (including recyclable, degradable and compostable plastics) and sold for the purpose of eating food. Cutlery includes any utensil that can be used to eat food – spoons, forks, knives, sporks, splayds and chopsticks. Alternatives include reusable tableware, paper, cardboard, or bamboo alternatives. Plastic food containers and plastic-lined paper alternatives are not included in this phase out.
  3. Plastic straws: Plastic drinking straws that contain any plastic (including recyclable, degradable, or compostable plastics) will be banned. Alternatives include going without a straw, reusable 4 metal, bamboo or silicon straws, edible straws, or paper straws.
  4. Non-home compostable plastic produce labels: Non-home compostable produce labels are made from plastic and are found attached to fruits or vegetables sold in New Zealand. This label is made partly or primarily of plastic which is not home compostable. Alternatives include home compostable labels, or signage at point of sale. Produce labels on imported produce are exempt until mid-2025. This phase out does not include labels on produce for export from New Zealand. Note: Home compostable means meeting one of the following standards: AS 5810-2010 Biodegradable plastics—Biodegradable plastics suitable for home composting. NF T51-800 Plastics – specifications for plastics suitable for home composting.

Tranche Three (mid-2025)

A number of additional items will be restricted as of mid-2025. The Government documents explains these products and their alternatives, and excerpts are presented below:

  1. All PVC food and beverage packaging: PVC food and beverage packaging is a tray, container (either with a lid or without a lid), packet, bowl, cup, film or wrap sold as packaging that contains food and beverage products or with the purpose of containing food and beverage products or with the purpose of containing food and beverage products for sale and made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Common examples include some biscuit trays and containers. 5 Potential alternatives include reusable packaging, recyclable plastic.
  2. All polystyrene food and beverage packaging: Polystyrene food and beverage packaging is a tray, container (either with a lid or without a lid), packet, bowl or cup sold as packaging that contains food and beverage products or with the purpose of containing food and beverage products and is made from rigid polystyrene including high-impact polystyrene. Examples include yoghurt and some dairy bottles. Potential alternatives include reusable packaging, recyclable plastic (type 1, 2 and 5) or paper packaging.

Produce Stickers

The Government of New Zealand plans to place restrictions on non-compostable produce stickers (including fresh fruit) based on a two phased roll out. This will start with a mandate for domestically produced fruits and vegetables in 2023, and then in mid-2025 will include a requirement for imported produce. The aim of this later requirement for imported produce is to allow suppliers time to prepare their systems to change to a compostable sticker by 2025. Compostable stickers on produce exported from New Zealand are not included in the regulations.

For the mandate on domestic produce in 2023, the government is providing a transitional period until mid-2025 to help producers meet the deadlines by requiring:

  1. Functional purpose labels only (country of origin, PLU, database, brand authentication, variety identification).
  2. Minimum of industrial compostable certification.
  3. Permit hybrid home compostable technologies where the entire construction may not be home compostable, but a majority is.
  4. Permit the use of fully home compostable products that are still in the process of achieving final certification.

Source: mfe.govt.nz/actsandregulations

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