Plastics New Zealand is celebrating a significant milestone – 80 years of being at the heart of the country's plastics industry, says Rachel Barker, CEO.

Pg 20“It’s always been Plastics NZ’s purpose to bring our industry together to create a strong community focused on balancing economic development with our commitment to social and environmental responsibility. While we traditionally focused on plastics manufacturers, recyclers, and raw materials providers, we now incorporate members across the full plastics value chain. This inclusion of all players in the system is critical as we drive towards a circular plastics economy,” says Barker.

New Zealand’s relationship with plastics began in 1912 with the manufacturing of casein, a byproduct of dairy production. At one stage, New Zealand led the world in production of these bioplastics. The history of plastics in New Zealand mirrors the nation’s own story of resilience and adaptation. From the early days of manufacturing telephone earpieces in 1932, to navigating the challenges of wartime production, to the modern challenges of globalisation and sustainability, the industry has consistently demonstrated its ability to innovate and adapt.

Plastics NZ continues to support this innovation, adapting to the ever-changing needs of the industry. “Today, we have a strong focus on transitioning to a circular plastics economy,” says Barker. “We strive to provide up-to-date expertise and insights to our members and other key stakeholders to ensure a connected and prepared industry.”

The organisation’s ‘Circular Economy’ programme is a vital aspect of this work, says Barker. Led by Katy Constance, circular economy manager, Plastics NZ is helping New Zealand businesses and resource recovery systems transform for the better. From providing design guidelines and co-funded support for those exploring and implementing plastics circular economy projects, through to facilitating national working groups focused on some of our more problematic waste streams, Plastics NZ is helping companies define their pathway to success.

Pg 21“It’s been rewarding to work with industry players who are enthusiastic about embracing change for the better”, says Constance. “The industry has a strong focus on sustainability and plastics circularity. It’s exciting to see solutions being implemented at pace.”

Alongside industry support Plastics New Zealand strives to develop industry connectedness. Events such as the association’s annual conference provide engaging networking opportunities in addition to learning experiences. Constance explains how these relationship building opportunities have positively impacted Plastics NZ’s work.

“The strong culture of whanaungatanga within our membership, and beyond, has been instrumental in the success of our projects,” says Constance, “By developing strong ties, communication has opened up across the value chain around how stakeholders can work together to improve plastics circularity. Members of our working groups are keen to collaborate to create a positive outcome for all.”

Cross sector collaboration led to over three tonnes of material being collected though Plastics New Zealand’s ‘Good Caps’ pilot stewardship programme. The work of  Plastics NZ’s polypropylene working group saw an additional 850,000 people gain access to recycling of #5 plastics. The inaugural ‘Operation Clean Sweep’ clean up week in November 2023 also saw over 12 cubic metres of litter being cleaned up.

Now, with a robust membership of over 200 companies, Plastics New Zealand continues to be a pivotal player in the industry.


Article Credit: New Zealand Food Technology News pg 20-21