Plastic beverage containers are one of the most common single-use plastic packaged products. These are manufactured onshore or imported as packaged goods. Two groups have estimated the production and recovery of beverage containers in Aotearoa New Zealand using different approaches. Other groups have used data from these studies to perform cost-benefit analysis of a container deposit scheme, but have not provided new estimates themselves.[1]

  • Waste Not Consulting: Data from members of the Packaging Forum were shared with the group confidentially to be aggregated for analysis.[2]
    • Consumption data: Direct from some major brand owners but not independently verified; relied on market share estimates from brand owners to extrapolate consumption data.
    • Recovery data: Tonnages by material type direct from four recyclers and Fonterra but not independently verified. Used proportion of recovered material that were beverage containers from one recycler as well as information on geographical locations and populations to extrapolate data. Lack of data from one of Auckland’s recyclers is a limitation that particularly affects PET (#1) and HDPE (#2) estimates.
  • Envision: Data were derived from international data.[3] Note: Limitations in the methods used by this study have been discussed in detail.[4]
    • Consumption data: Per capita consumption rates were based on consumption data from South Australia who have an established CDS and converted to tonnage data. To validate estimates, data were also compared that from British Columbia in Canada and Western Australia.
    • Recovery data: Estimates based on questionnaire data from 16 Aotearoa New Zealand local authority representatives on the volumes of beverage containers recovered through kerbside and public space recycling programmes.

Table 1 Estimated rates of consumption and recovery of plastic beverage containers in Aotearoa New Zealand

  Consumption (tonnes) Recovery (tonnes) Recovery rate
Waste Not Consulting PET (#1) 13,977 8,066 58%
HDPE (#2) 13,512 5,455 40%
Envision PET (#1) 14,274 Not reported 40%*
  HDPE (#2) 10,686 Not reported 40%*

*Estimated in this report to be below 40% and possibly as low as 30%

A material flow analysis of PET bottles through Aotearoa New Zealand estimated around 14,200 tonnes consumed annually, with 7,500 tonnes recovered (details in Appendix 11).

Information on the number of beverages produced/consumed and recovered/landfilled in Aotearoa New Zealand is not readily or easily available. The estimates of the tonnes of PET (#1) and HDPE (#2) consumed through beverage containers differ between the two methods and both are limited by the reliance on industry-reported data without audit by a third party. This makes understanding the potential impacts of efforts to improve plastic recovery, such as container deposit schemes, difficult. There is a need for comprehensive, verified data.


[1] Covec Ltd, “Evaluating the Costs and Benefits of Introducing a Container Deposit System for New Zealand: Summary of Analysis “, 2016 And Preston Davies, “Cost-Benefit Analysis of a Container Deposit Scheme: Report for the Auckland Council “, 2017

[2] Waste Not Consulting, “National Recovery Rate for Beverage Containers”, 2018

[3] Envision, “The Incentive to Recycle: The Case for a Container Deposit System in New Zealand “, 2015

[4] W Snow, “Costs and Benefits of a Container Deposit Scheme for New Zealand: Review of the Packaging Forum’s 2016 Cba of a Cds for New Zealand”, 2016

Explore more case studies from Rethinking Plastics

Sustainability through connection, learning and action

With a kaupapa of creating a healthy, peaceful, more sustainable world, Toimata Foundation supports inter-generational learning and action by running two main programmes in schools and communities:…

Reducing the carbon footprint of plastics by using recycled plastic

In a study of the carbon footprint of projected global plastic use between 2015 and 2050, Zheng and Suh modelled a theoretical situation of 100% recycling of plastic in 2050, and found it had a 25%…

A reusable system to replace single-use cups

Globelet offers a reusable cup system for festivals and other events. The cups are made from recycled polypropylene (#5) and manufactured onshore. Globelet provides the following statistics on their…

How big is the plastic clothing problem for Aotearoa New Zealand?

Some plastic articles of clothing are captured in the ‘Plastics and articles thereof’ harmonised trade codes in import data from Statistics NZ, but this does not account for all synthetic fibres im…

A business enabling people to rethink their use of plastic

Ecostore is an exemplar of how a business can take transformative action to rethink how we use plastics and inspire system-wide change. To enable people to reduce their use of non-renewable single-…

New Zealand Post’s quest for an alternative to plastic

The driver: New Zealand Post wants a more sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to their existing plastic mailers (e.g. courier bags, pre-paid postage bags). New Zealand Post has also…

Para Kore – helping people reduce their waste

Para Kore is a Māori organisation that provides mentoring and support for marae, kōhanga reo, kura, community organisations, iwi, tertiary, commercial sector, events and Māori communities to reduce…

Plastic Bag Free Raglan, Pēke Kirihou Kore Whāingaroa

In October 2018, Whāingaroa Raglan won the Keep New Zealand Beautiful ‘Community Environmental Initiative Award’. The kōrero behind the Award was a story of what happened when a whole community wor…

Controlled plastic decomposition

Plastics are made by joining monomers together to form long flexible chains in a process known as polymerisation. The strength of the bonds formed between monomers is what makes the plastics persis…

Recyclable shoes

As part of its recent pledge to use only recycled plastics by 2024, Adidas revealed a new sneaker made from 100% recyclable materials. Driven by a connection to environmental organisation Parley for…