The State of Retail Packaging in New Zealand

The State of Retail Packaging in New Zealand

Here in Aotearoa (New Zealand), we have a reputation for being clean, green and environmentally friendly. In general, most Kiwis do take care of their surroundings and make an effort to avoid pollution.

However, it can be quite difficult to look after the planet when so many retail items are covered in unsustainable, single-use plastic packaging.

“The average New Zealander uses about 32 kilograms of plastic packaging each year” 

Source

In this article, we take a look at the current situation when it comes to retail packaging, ways that we can all reduce our environmental impact through intentionally choosing products that use less plastic and what we (Eco Warehouse) are doing to help.

The current situation with retail packaging

retail packaging issue

As of July 1st, 2019, “single use plastic shopping bags with handles that are made of plastic up to 70 microns in thickness” have been banned in retail stores throughout New Zealand.

Whilst this definitely goes a long way towards reducing consumer waste and encourages us to shop more sustainably, completely avoiding single-use plastics is still a challenge at the best of times.

If you think about how many products on supermarket shelves are covered in disposable plastic packaging, the amount of waste that we continue to produce becomes quite clear.

Wasteful packaging still used by many suppliers

Plastic packaging is often viewed as a dirty topic for companies that make retail products. Thanks to the consumer pressure to reduce plastic usage, we are starting to see suppliers shift to more sustainable alternatives.

During the process of developing and improving products, it is important for brands to consider the entire life cycle of their creations. Rather than simply making things that people will buy, it is more important now than ever before that we think about where these products end up after they have been used.

Companies that supply our supermarkets and other retail stores are making efforts to shift towards sustainable packaging for the most part. However, there is much more that can still be done.

We have seen a range of new brands that are committed to sustainability emerge in recent years, and gain significant market traction as a result of their environmental values. 

For example, Ethique is a Kiwi company that creates solid shampoo and body bars free from plastic packaging (and have prevented over 4.3 million plastic bottles from being made as a result).

How suppliers are changing

There are a wide range of ways that established brands can reduce their plastic consumption. Of course, it is not always as simple as just swapping one material for another, as there are often dedicated factories and entire supply chains that need to be redesigned to change things around.

When you’re dealing with economies of scale, these changes take time and investment - but the potential rewards of doing so are enormous.

Here are a couple of ways that established brands and suppliers are changing:

  • Last year, Unilever committed to introducing at least 25% recycled plastic into bottles for their key brands and take active measures to use more recycled plastic where possible. Unilever owns a wide range of consumer brands that sit prominently on retail shelves, especially in the cosmetics and personal care categories.
  • Starbucks is actively committed to reducing waste by promoting reusable coffee cups, improving packaging design and creating the next gen cup consortium to encourage entrepreneurs to find new ways to reduce waste in the cup industry. More information here.

How can we reduce our packaging consumption?

plastic cup

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want” - Anna Lappé

Here are eight ways that you can reduce the amount of packaging and waste that you create:

  1. Shop at bulk foods stores (such as Bin Inn and The Source) and bring your own reusable containers.
  2. Visit your local farmers market and buy fresh organic produce directly from the growers.
  3. When you need to consume products that are wrapped in plastics, look for ones that are grade 1 or 2 as these can be recycled here in New Zealand.
  4. Rather than discarding other plastic containers, why not use them around the house? There are many ways that your clean yoghurt or ice cream containers can be used for storage.
  5. Take a reusable coffee cup with you next time you visit the cafe.
  6. Say no to single use plastic straws!
  7. Use natural soapnut shells instead of detergent to wash your clothes.
  8. Buy your sustainable household items all in one place online from Eco Warehouse and have them delivered to your door.

Our commitment to sustainability

girl holding earth

Imagine what our world would look like if everyone valued sustainable packaging, and made this a conscious factor in their buying decisions…

Here at Eco Warehouse, we are dedicated to living by our promises and operating our business in an environmentally friendly manner. In practice, this means sourcing environmentally-conscious household items that meet our strict selection criteria (check out our homepage for a detailed breakdown of our criteria) and packaging your orders in recyclable cardboard boxes that are secured with compostable kraft paper tape. We use 100% recycled paper for padding, instead of bubble wrap.

In our personal lives, we take active measures to avoid plastic waste. Here are a few things that we do to be more sustainable:

  • We drive a hybrid Toyota Prius and work from home to reduce mileage.
  • Our food scraps are composted using the Bokashi Composting System.
  • Our power comes from a company that sources 100% renewable energy.
  • We wash our clothes with natural soapnut shells and use Ethique solid body wash to avoid creating demand for plastic bottles.
  • We have chickens that provide us with fresh eggs and support local farmers markets.

Here’s to a more sustainable tomorrow

sustainable tomorrow

“There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.”

Annie Leonard

The collective result of our packaging consumption decisions has led us to the situation that we are now facing. However, in the same way that our actions have created this problem over the last few generations, our actions also have the power to solve it. 

What are your favourite ways to reduce packaging waste? Let us know by sharing your top tips on social media and tagging @ecowarehousenz for the chance to be featured.

Posted on 10/03/2021 EcoWarehouse Blog

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