Many manufacturers, brand owners, suppliers and retailers use the global GS1 database to share information with one another as a product moves through the supply chain from manufacture to purchase, within and between countries. A network of regional organisations, including GS1 New Zealand, connect their datasets through the global data synchronisation network (GDSN). A standardised language is used for product data across the network, via a data dictionary. GS1 New Zealand jointly maintains its database with GS1 Australia. Known as the National Product Catalogue, the database contains hundreds of thousands of products traded across and within the two countries. The global network requires certain core attributes (variables) to be captured. Any other requirements are localised, generally dictated by local regulation and/or data recipients.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, recording the packaging material type code was initiated in 2004 because of the Packaging Accord, as a voluntary means to provide the packaging data required by the Ministry for the Environment. This classifies packaging material by type of plastic, e.g. LDPE (#4), HDPE (#2) and bio-based plastics certified by the European standard.

How data is shared between publishers and recipients in the GS1 National Product Catalogue. Image credit: GS1

Examples of additional packaging codes available within the GDSN but not yet captured in Aotearoa New Zealand include:

  • Packaging level type: capturing primary, secondary and tertiary packaging so that packaging used throughout the supply chain is recorded (e.g. packaging for shipping or removed by retailer prior to sale)
  • Packaging marked label accreditation: for example, whether the packaging is accredited as compostable according to specified standards
  • Packaging recovery rate type: whether the packaging can be processed according to specified standards for e.g. composting or recycling
  • Packaging recycled content type: the ratio of post-consumer recycled material (as defined by ISO 14021) to total material
  • Packaging recycling process: whether packaging is compostable, energy recoverable, recyclable or reusable
  • Packaging recycling scheme code: based on the resin identification codes
  • Packaging reusability standard: whether the packaging meets certain standards for reuse.

An example of how packaging is coded within GS1’s National Product Catalogue is below.

The main packaging is the bottlepackagingTypeCodeBOTTLE
It has a labelpackagingFeatureCodeLABEL
It has a cappackagingFeatureCodeCAP
packagingWeight1.2 GRM
The bottle is made of multiple polymerspackagingMaterialTypeCodePOLYMER_HDPE
packagingMaterialCompositionQuantity1 GRM
packagingMaterialCompositionQuantity0.2 GRM
Next is the blister protectionpackagingTypeCodeBLISTER_PACK
packagingWeight0.5 GRM
packagingMaterialCompositionQuantity0.5 GRM
Next is the card backingpackagingTypeCodeCM
packagingWeight0.4 GRM
packagingMaterialCompositionQuantity0.4 GRM

In addition to consumer packaged goods, GS1 databases include apparel and footwear, consumer electronics and healthcare products. Notably, data recipients aren’t limited to retailers. For example the New Zealand and Australian governments are data recipient for healthcare products and the Australian Tax Office for GST calculation purposes.

The key data recipients in Aotearoa New Zealand are Countdown and Foodstuffs, who between them have around 95% of market share for supermarkets. The products captured by these retailers cover 60-70% of all sales and include all major products. Voluntary uptake of the National Product Catalogue by suppliers is variable, with around 50% of Foodstuffs’ product residing in the database at present. Countdown are in the process of onboarding their suppliers to the same database. These products are in the main from the larger FMCG suppliers and therefore their products account for a greater share of total sales in Aotearoa New Zealand. The use of GS1 standards (notably product identification/barcodes) across these two retailers is almost ubiquitous.

Further exploration of the potential to use GS1 and the National Product Catalogue to measure plastic use in Aotearoa New Zealand is warranted. There is a working group comprising GS1, Foodstuffs, Countdown, Retail NZ and NZ Food and Grocery Council underway to look at this.

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