NZ has a heavily reliance on raw materials imports, and our businesses are often geared towards exports, or supplying parts and packaging to those who do export. Over the last few weeks, discussions and announcements have been made to international regulations, or those in our export markets. Proposed changes may impact your business in the future.

The following topics are all ‘big’ in scope, so please consider this article a highlights reel. We will provide links below to additional information below and will continue to update our members as these matters develop. The first two impact all sectors within the plastics industry, the next the packaging sector, and the last recyclers and reprocessors.

  • United Nations Plastics Treaty
  • IMO Plastics Raw Materials & Shipping
  • Australian Packaging & Traceability Regulations
  • European Commission Packaging Directive Changes
  • European Commission Plastic Waste Exports
  • Canadian listing of plastics as toxic ruled ‘unreasonable’ by court

United Nations Plastics Treaty

The latest negotiations (INC3) for the UN plastics treaty have just concluded in Nairobi, Kenya. This saw ~1,500 government officials and stakeholders work together on developing the work and text of this important legally binding international agreement. The goal is to complete the work and sign the treaty by mid-2025, allowing implementation to occur as early as possible.

 It’s somewhat unclear whether INC3 can be considered a success. The working draft of the treaty now incorporates the full scope of government viewpoints, something that was missing in the zero draft. This provides member states with a clear negotiating platform for INC4 in April. However, there are very diverse perspectives on key matters such as production caps on raw materials and the management of chemicals and ‘polymers of concern’ to be dealt with. Officials were also unable to agree on the matters that need to be worked on between now and April, which is likely to extend the timeframe of the negotiations.

Regardless of the timing, the agreement will result in significant changes for the industry, both globally and at a local level. We invite our members to read our extended analysis of the negotiations, the NZ government’s position and the changes heading our way. Read more … 

IMO Plastics Raw Materials Shipping 

Hopefully you’ve been keeping up to date on the proposals put to the International Maritime Organization to reclassify plastic raw materials as Dangerous Goods (DGs). If you have no idea what we’re talking about please read page 11 of our Annual Report.

As expected, when the DG proposals were set aside until 2024 to allow for the development of a Circular relating to improved transparency and storage for handling plastics on ships, this matter has raised its head again. We have recently become aware of a new proposal to be discussed at the next Pollution Prevention & Response Committee meeting (PPR-11) in February next year. This proposal would result in plastics being classed ‘harmful substances’, comes from our region of the world and has some serious implications for the plastics industry and our supply chains. Read more …. 

Australian Packaging & Traceability Regulations

If you supply packaging, packaged products, or recycled materials to the Australian market you need to check this one out (any type of packaging).

On the 10th of November, the Australian Federal Government announced that it will be introducing new Federal national packaging laws and stepping up as the regulator of packaging standards. “The Federal government will mandate how packaging is designed, will set minimum recycled content requirements, and prohibit harmful chemicals being used”.

Australian ministers also endorsed a national traceability framework with the goal of providing Australian businesses and consumers with confidence in the items they’re buying. “Users of recycled content will be confident that material they are using is free of hidden harmful chemicals or other contaminants, as well as where that material has been sourced from – whether Australia or overseas”.

Ministers also plan to accelerate product stewardship by better coordinating work across federal and state governments. Check out the full announcement here.

European Commission Packaging Directive Changes

Do you, or your customers, send packaging or packaged product to the European market? If so, changes are afoot that are likely to impact you.

The Europe Parliament is voting this week on changes to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. The European Parliament will decide whether or not to accept the recommendations to modify the Directive and implement the following by 2030:

  • All packaging to be recyclable.
  • Minimum recycled content required in plastic packaging.
  • Ambitious recycling and waste reduction targets.
  • Targets for reuse and refill for different packaging applications.

With the mandate on recycled content for plastic packaging sitting alongside regulations on food safety, there are concerns of trade barriers for New Zealand producers exporting to Europe. A working group is being established to investigate the pending changes and any challenges they present to New Zealand exporters.

European Commission Plastic Waste Exports

On the 17th of November, it was announced that the European Parliament and Council had reached agreement that the EU would take greater responsibility for its waste. While all waste is covered, plastics get special treatment. No plastic waste will be able to be exported to a non-OECD country 2.5 years after the regulations move into law. This will only be allowed, after a period of 5 years, if the country can meet strict conditions. Exports to OECD countries will also be monitored and action taking if environmental problems are being created in the country of destination.

While this doesn’t directly impact New Zealand companies, it is likely to influence the direction of travel for New Zealand. There are already discussions occurring around the export of plastics to developing nations. The European Union taking this step will likely heighten New Zealand officials’ attention in this area. 

Canadian listing of plastics as toxic ruled ‘unreasonable’ by court

On the 16th of November, a Canadian federal court ruled that their government was ‘unreasonable and unconstitutional’ in declaring plastic product as toxic under their 2021 amendment to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The Judge determined that the government exceeded its authority as ‘There is no reasonable apprehension that all listed [plastic manufactured items] are harmful’.

While the Canadian government may appeal this decision, it is good news as this move had set a dangerous precedent concerning the global industry.