The Government must provide better advice about recycling plastics in New Zealand, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment says.
"There are all sorts of supposedly environmentally-friendly plastics coming onto the market, but it is extremely difficult for consumers to make sense of their respective claims," Commissioner Simon Upton said.
He's written to the Government urging it to provide clear guidelines and regulation about biodegradable and compostable plastics, saying "both businesses and consumers face a bewildering array of claims about plastic".
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He said plastics are being promoted as biodegradable, degradable and compostable, but if the terminology is not used carefully it creates "a serious source of confusion and lead to even worse environmental outcomes".
"There is a surprising degree of complexity at play here. One can't simply toss these products onto the compost heap, or into our recycling bins, and go away thinking 'job done'."
The Commissioner has released an online guide with key facts and FAQs about recycling plastics, but he says it's essential that the Government plays a bigger role too.
WasteMINZ chief executive Paul Evan agrees there should be more clarity around the terminology relating to plastics recycling, and there should be standards for manufacturers to comply with when using the terms.
"There is significant confusion among retailers and consumers around terminology where words like biodegradable, degradable and compostable are used interchangeably but they actually mean very different things," Mr Evan said.
His main advice to consumers is that "no single-use option is a good choice" and people should consider how they can reduce their plastic consumption and use more reusable products.