Better packaging for your products – what you need to know

by | Mar 25, 2022 | News

The pressure for businesses to do better with packaging is growing. Ambitious sustainability targets are looming and new regulations are coming into play. It’s no longer a question why adopt sustainable packaging, to how we can quickly and safely bring about change.

How to redesign your packaging? Smart design decisions can have a big impact on sustainability.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise – Te Taurapa Tūhono (NZTE) has released new resources on sustainable packaging for New Zealand exporters, in response to global trends and requirements for businesses to reduce waste and non-renewable material use. Legislation and targets for sustainable packaging are being toughened in key export markets for New Zealand goods, including Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, China, South Korea and Japan.

New or pending rules overseas include bans on single-use or non-recyclable plastic items, taxes on plastic packaging, requirements for compostable or reusable packaging, and obligations for distributors to take responsibility for packaging after products have been sold.

Here in New Zealand, the National Plastics Actions Plan and other Government measures are also expected to shape packaging decisions for local businesses.

NZTE’s resources were prepared based on market intelligence from its offices overseas, with further support from industry expert and packaging consultant Nikki Withington. As well as highlighting changes in overseas markets, the collection includes guides for assessing current packaging, making decisions about materials and waste reduction, and keeping packaging materials in circulation through reuse, repurposing and effective recycling.

The new resources are available via myNZTE for free, with no registration required.

“It’s a good time for export businesses to reassess their packaging and get ahead of new requirements in some key trade destinations for New Zealand,” says Sanchia Yonge, General Manager for Customer Solutions at NZTE.

“At the same time this is an opportunity to look at a major cost area and find new approaches that can save on materials and energy, which ultimately feeds through to a business’s bottom line.”

“Exporters need to consider their product and how it gets to market, then find the right approach to protect their goods in the most sustainable way right up to the end consumer,” Yonge adds.

“Damaged products are the biggest source of waste in export, so great sustainable packaging for exporters meets performance needs first and then uses the right design, materials and energy to do the job cleanly and efficiently.”

The new collection includes insights from Nikki Withington on promoting packaging reuse and recycling by consumers, as well as circular approaches where packaging can be fed back into the business value chain, keeping existing materials in use and slashing waste and emissions.

Circular and sustainable packaging is also a focus area for the new Circular Economy Directory for Aotearoa New Zealand, led by the Sustainable Business Network and supported by NZTE along with the Ministry for the Environment, Waste Management NZ and Āmiomio Aotearoa.

The business-to-business directory will be launched online on 12 April, and businesses that provide products, services or expertise to help others reduce waste or emissions can apply for a listing free of charge until 30 September.

Check out NZTE’s new sustainable packaging resources  here, along with other market information and resources for exporters.

Overseas initiatives for exporters to be aware of – key highlights

For full analysis see NZTE’s resource here: Overseas sustainability targets to be aware of – myNZTE

  • Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Targets include a shift to 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging, and 70 percent of plastic packaging recycled or composted at the end of its life. State governments are also issuing their own initiatives and targets, and retailers such as Woolworths are proactively communicating sustainable packaging preferences to suppliers, in an effort to phase out hard-to-recycle materials.
  • The European Union requires ‘first distributors’ of packaged products to take responsibility for the packaging waste that comes with these products, and also has a voluntary Plastics Pact to encourage responsible design, use and recycling (signalling the region’s overall direction). EU countries are also setting their own goals and targets, such as France which has introduced a packaging ban for fruits and vegetables and a goal to phase out all single-use plastics by 2040.
  • The UK’s Plastic Packaging Tax, coming into force on 1 April, affects “business customers of producers and importers of plastic packaging, and consumers who buy goods in plastic packaging in the UK”. Manufacturers and importers must pay tax by weight on any plastic packaging components which contain less than 30% recycled plastic.
  • Numerous US states have introduced toughened packaging rules. California, Delaware, Hawaii, Connecticut, Vermont, Oregon, Maine and New York have banned single-use plastic bags, with New York banning polystyrene foam packaging in 2019, and Vermont going further to also ban polystyrene food containers and single-use cups and stirrers. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act 2021 aims to build on state-level plastic bans at the federal level, and is being promoted by a range of organisations and US lawmakers.
  • China has laid out a five-year roadmap to restrict the use of some plastic items, including banning non-degradable plastic bags in major cities in 2020, in small towns in 2022, and in fresh produce markets by 2025. In addition to banning the production and sale of a range of single-use and non-degradable plastics, a new law will come into effect in 2023 limiting excessive packaging for food and beauty products. However, recycled plastics cannot currently be used for food packaging in China, including imported goods from New Zealand – so exporters should avoid using recycled content in food packaging destined for China, but should monitor for future policy changes given China’s growing focus on eliminating waste.
  • South Korea aims to cut plastic waste in half by 2030, and to lift its recycling rate from 34 percent to 70 percent over the same timescale. Its nationwide Recycling Act bans the use of plastic materials judged difficult to recycle, and requires packaging to be ‘graded’ and publicly labelled to show its ease of recycling. Packaging containing ‘difficult’ materials must display South Korea’s ‘unable to recycle’ symbol, which lets consumers know that a product will contribute to landfill.
  • Japan’s Act on Promotion of Resource Circulation in Plastics, passed in 2021, encourages manufacturers to design products for straightforward recycling, and requires major retailers and hotels to offer plastic products that are at least 60 percent sourced from recycled or biodegradable materials by 2030.

Links to NZTE’s new sustainable packaging resources

Source: Scoop Media

About the Author

Vincent Heeringa

Vincent Heeringa is a communications strategist, writer, marketer and PR expert specialising in tech, investment, and sustainability. He was co-founder of Idealog, Stoppress and Good magazines and helped establish the Science Media Centre. He is the host of a podcast ‘This Climate Business’, co-founder of The Feed.co.nz, and a trustee of the Adventure Specialties Trust. And there's nothing he loves more than a good story. vincentheeringa.com

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