Twelve international and New Zealand-based businesses have signed a declaration to tackle plastic waste in New Zealand by 2025, but Greenpeace isn't convinced the move will have enough impact.
The businesses chose World Environment Day (June 5), with its theme of 'Beat Plastic Pollution', to commit to using 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in their New Zealand operations by 2025 or earlier.
"These companies have drawn a line in the sand, pledging to do their bit to stem the tide of plastic waste and plastic pollution," said Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage on Tuesday.
But Greenpeace warned on Tuesday that the announcement is an "industry-led false solution for tackling the scourge of plastic pollution in our oceans".
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Greenpeace warns that commitments on making plastic packaging recyclable and compostable will do little to turn the tide on plastic pollution, and that companies and government need to focus on reductions and eliminations of single-use plastics production if they are serious about tackling this issue.
New Zealand-based businesses that have signed the NZ Plastic Packaging Declaration are Foodstuffs, Countdown, New Zealand Post, and Frucor Suntory.
The other businesses to sign the declaration include multinationals Amcor, L'Oreal, Mars, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, and Nestle.
Greenpeace says Coca-Cola, Unilever and Nestle are some of the top contributors to single-use plastic pollution worldwide and here in New Zealand.
But the organisation applauds companies that are beginning to eliminate single-use plastics from their shelves, like Countdown's announcement on Tuesday that they are eliminating plastic straws.
Companies can sign up to the 'Beat Plastic Pollution' declaration by contacting the Ministry for the Environment if they are able to demonstrate they can report on progress annually.
"We need action now. Scientists estimate that there are over 150 million tonnes of plastics in the ocean and, if nothing changes, plastic in oceans will weigh more than their fish by 2050," said Ms Sage.
"We need to move to a circular economy by designing waste out of our economic system and creating and buying products designed to have a long life, which can be easily disassembled so they can reused, recycled or composted."
Ms Sage also announced $2.7 million in funding for local charity Sustainable Coastlines to develop an education programme and a national litter database.
"Sustainable Coastlines is already playing a critical role in mobilising New Zealanders to look after our beaches and rivers. Now they can do important work to test the effectiveness of different litter interventions, including educational approaches so we can work out how to best change litter behaviour."
The programme will train 'Citizen Scientists' across the country to input their own data.
Ms Sage said educators in New Zealand will be trained with resources and evaluation tools to "deliver effective education that reduces littering."