Campaign to clean up marine plastics
With growing public concern about plastic escaping into the environment New Zealand has joined Operation Clean Sweep, an international effort to prevent resin pellet, flake, and powder loss and help keep this material out of the marine environment.
Operated by Plastics New Zealand in this country, the programme has had strong uptake from members, says Plastics New Zealand CEO Rachel Barker. “Members of Plastics New Zealand do not want to see plastics of any kind in the marine environment.
“We are promoting Operation Clean Sweep to all plastics handling sites material suppliers, manufacturers, and recyclers alike. “To date 63 businesses have adopted best practices to ensure they keep their plastics out of the marine environment,” she says.
While internationally companies merely sign up to the principles of the programme in New Zealand they must be audited before being accepted.
“They are given recommendations of best practice to follow. Once they have implemented these items and we have evidence of this only then are they certified,” explains Rachel.
Plastics New Zealand is targeting the programme at all parts of the industry including warehousing, freight and transport companies in order to cover the whole supply chain.
The organisation is also looking at the possibility of on-going audits.“Every segment of the plastics industry has a role to play—including resin producers, transporters, recyclers and plastics processors—by implementing good housekeeping and pellet, flake, and powder containment practices,” explains
Rachel who says that Operation Clean Sweep has been adopted by plastics industries in more than nearly 50countries around the world. It is only one of a suite of environmental initiatives that Plastics New Zealand is working to lift the performance of the industry to best practice.
The organisation is also seeking to help members manufacture more efficiently and has undertaken over 50 energy audits alongside the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority for member companies to help them improve their energy usage.
Rachel says that Plastics New Zealand is also supportive of the principle of industry-led, voluntary product stewardship and accepts that all parties involved in a product’s life cycle need to share the responsibility for the environmental impact of the product.
The organisation has launched a number of initiatives including running a sustainability initiative since 2003 and a Best Practice Programme for more than nine years. It has also produced Design for the Environment guidelines with an emphasis on initial design and recyclability.
Product stewardship and design for the environment are integrated into the organisation’s training in the Diploma in Design and Specification of Plastics and the NZ Qualifications Authority Unit Standards for Plastics.
Rachel says that such initiatives benefit both members and the planet in general: “For example every unit of material sent to waste carries a disposal cost. However the true cost of waste is more than just the cost of disposal.
It also includes the additional cost of raw materials, energy and labour involved in making the product in the first place.“This can be 5–20 times higher than the cost of disposal. So waste reduction programmes offer businesses a real saving as well.
“We also continue to work closely with the recycling and composting industry and local government to ensure our products can be recycled or composted in New Zealand.”She says that despite public backlash against plastic it does have its benefits and its place.
“Plastic packaging benefits the environment by reducing the use of energy, fuel consumption and food waste. “The light weight of plastic packaging means producers are more able to transport larger quantities of products while using less fuel to get it to its destination.
It’s not necessarily about plastic – it’s about how we’re using it. “Everyone needs to work together for the best environmental outcomes.”
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