This month the Ministry for the Environment published the results of its Transforming Recycling submissions process, where 98% of respondents supported the implementation of a national container return scheme. 

In March, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins  announced that a number of climate and environment policies will be binned or deferred. Amongst those was the Container Return Scheme which would incentivise the return of beverage containers and lift collection and recycling rates.

The Ministry’s report acknowledges that most submitters said this would help Aotearoa New Zealand transition to a low-emissions and circular economy, change consumer and manufacturer behaviours, and result in less waste.

Greenpeace Aotearoa spokesperson Juressa Lee says this decision demonstrates a disconnect with the public. 

“Successive Kantar Better Futures reports have placed plastic waste in the top ten list of issues that most concern New Zealanders, along with overpackaging and landfills.”

“We’re about to enter another Plastic Free July where we’ll be encouraged to do better as individuals to address the plastic pollution crisis we’re in. And  July 1st is when the next phase of the government’s ban on some hard to recycle plastic comes into effect. This is the perfect time to go one step further, do what New Zealanders want, and bring back the container return scheme.

“Many submissions also favored keeping milk bottles in the scheme which makes sense. The CRS could increase beverage container collection rates to 90%, keeping bottles out of our environment and landfills.

“There are many benefits to a Container Return Scheme, providing jobs for local communities. We believe CRS is the way toward refill and reuse systems and infrastructure, ultimately turning off the plastic tap and shifting us to a circular economy. Everybody wins.

“Approximately one billion plastic bottles are sold here in Aotearoa every year, and with no concrete plans for a CRS and a lackluster National Plastic Actions Plan, the government is lacking the courage and urgency required for real, systemic change,” says Lee.

Earlier this year, Greenpeace Aotearoa launched a petition, calling for the govt to bring back the container return scheme and has received more than 12,000 signatures. 

“All the work on the CRS has been done, and it could be back on track with just the flick of a switch. Now the government has a clear mandate that they must act upon,” says Lee.