The Hard Truth of Soft Plastics
Recently at Azwood Energy, we received feedback from some of our pellet fuel customers enquiring whether their wood fuel pellet bags were recyclable. This prompted Azwood to look into this issue further.
We ran a competition last year to find the most interesting re-use of Azwood’s pellet fuel bags and found they were being repurposed as waterproof packaging, rubbish bags, toboggans and even being turned into plastic yarn, then crocheted into doormats and toys.
The bags themselves are recyclable (No 4), but New Zealand is not set up to deal well with the recycling of soft plastic and many councils don’t accept them in their recycling bins. Recyclers that can recycle soft plastics are too concerned about contamination to recycle all soft plastics. That is not a solution Azwood Energy was happy with.
Azwood wanted to know more so decided to look further into the environmental impact of plastic pollution. A recent report by the World Economic Forum states that the equivalent of one dump truck full of plastic enters the ocean every minute and over a year that amounts to at least 8 million tonnes. Scientists estimate that there will be more plastic than fish, (by weight), in the ocean by 2050, unless we drastically change our plastic habits.
The report found that most plastic packaging is used only once and when it enters the ocean affects over 260 species simply through entanglement or ingestion.
So, what can be done about this problem? Australian scientist, Dr Chris Wilcox, has suggested introducing deposits or fees on plastic packaging, as its current cheapness means we produce and consume more. Levies on single-use plastic bags have been imposed in countries across the world, such as the UK, Ireland, and Denmark, with mandatory charges commonly leading to decreases in bag usage of between 66 and 90 percent.
However, an outright ban on single-use plastic bags is another option New Zealand is looking at. Recently, the Coalition Government has signalled that it is set to introduce such a ban. Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage said the ban could be announced in "the next few months".
Companies such as Countdown, who use 6.73 million bags per week, have already started to phase out single-use plastic bags. Foodstuffs, which owns New World, PAK'nSAVE and Four Square, will stop supplying such bags to customers by the end of the year. Mitre1 0 and The Warehouse will follow suit, with Mitre 10 discontinuing single-use plastic bags on July 1. Leading the pack, though, is Bunnings, which went plastic bag-free in 2008.
All of this investigation by the team at Azwood Energy has prompted us to review our packaging and we have determined to work hard on resolving the issue in favour of further improving our environmental footprint. We think we have a solution. We will keep you posted!
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