Technological watch

Phasing out hard-to-recycle and single-use plastics

Illustration showing plastic items and materials being phased out across the three tranches. © New Zealand GovernmentWhy we are phasing out these plasticsPlastic is one of our greatest environmental challenges. It regularly ends up as waste in our landfills, our moana and whenua. Hard-to-recycle packaging and products can interfere with our recycling systems and are often used only once before being disposed of. 

Shifting away from hard-to-recycle and single-use plastics will help reduce plastic waste, improve our recycling systems and protect our environment. This shift is also part of a wider ambition to move Aotearoa New Zealand towards a low-emissions, low-waste economy.

Phase-out decisions follow public consultation The Government consulted publicly on its phase-out proposals in 2020. This was part of a broader response to the Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand report released by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor in 2019.

We received close to 8,000 submissions during the consultation. Most were in support of the proposals. There was a high level of response from the general public, affected businesses, environmental and community groups, and local government agencies.

Read the summary of submissions we received
Read the individual submissions we received
Read a summary of the proposals we consulted on 
Read Rethinking plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand

About the timing of the phase-outsItems that are easier to replace are being phased out sooner than those that are more challenging to replace. This approach strikes a balance between public feedback for fast action and providing businesses with adequate time to prepare.

Providing information early on the phase-outs allows time for businesses and the public to adjust (eg, use up old stock, make changes to product lines and find suitable alternatives).

Alternatives to items being phased outPractical alternatives are readily available for some of the items and plastic types being phased out. Many businesses and individuals have already made changes. Alternatives may include reusable items (eg, metal spoons or reusable containers), non-plastic alternatives or easier to recycle plastics (such as types 1, 2 and 5) instead of PVC and polystyrene packaging.

See guidance on single-use plastic products banned or phased out from July 2023

Compostable and bio-based plastic alternativesBio-based and compostable plastics have emerged as alternatives to some traditional plastics. Compostable alternatives often require processing in a commercial composting facility to break down. These are not available everywhere in Aotearoa New Zealand. In general, bio-based plastics behave in a similar way to conventional plastics and will not degrade in the same way as their original source material. If these plastics become litter they can harm wildlife in the same way as conventional fossil fuel plastic products.

The phase out of drink stirrers, plastic-stemmed cotton buds, plastic produce bags, plastic plates, bowls and cutlery and plastic straws extends to all types of plastic including compostable and bio-based plastics.

We encourage businesses looking for alternatives to the hard-to-recycle plastics being phased out to consider reusable or recyclable alternatives in the first instance.

Read the Ministry’s position statement on compostable products

Identifying plastic typesThe illustration below shows the different types of plastic and how recyclable they are in Aotearoa New Zealand. Plastic types are usually identifiable by a small number inside an arrow triangle.

Next stepsDrafting regulations under the Waste Minimisation Act for the mid-2025 phase-outs.

Publication date: 28/07/2023

Author: Yago Destro de Oliveira

Bio-based News


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.