New material innovations start with research and development. Through an iterative process, researchers (often alongside their industry partners) make and test materials until the new material has all of the desired properties for that application. This can take years. Next, the new material needs to be taken out of the lab and into the real world. This presents a whole new series of challenges.

Critical success factors to drive local development and uptake of sustainable new materials as part of a circular economy include:

  • Regulation that incentivises industry to use more sustainable materials. Product bans or other incentives can help drive uptake of new materials that have been specifically designed to replace problematic materials or products, or address international standards and non-tarrif barriers.
  • Connection across the value chain. Researchers, brand owners and manufacturers all need to be well connected to identify material needs, capitalise on innovation opportunities, and ensure the application need is met. A research and innovation system that supports risk takers and bold ideas is fundamental to achieving this.
  • Supply of appropriate feedstock for scale-up. There are huge opportunities within Aotearoa New Zealand to use biomass to make new materials, particularly using the waste from one process as the raw material for another. Businesses need to be connected with other businesses and researchers to identify these opportunities.
  • Scale-up facilities to trial and demonstrate new materials beyond proof-of-concept when local manufacturers are unwilling to take risks with their equipment for new materials. These facilities are critical for developing the markets needed for scale-up and are currently lacking, particularly for the equipment modifications needed to process biomass into new products.
  • Manufacturing infrastructure, which may require modification of existing equipment or development of new facilities, depending on the material. Aotearoa New Zealand has the potential to meet growing global demands for bio-based materials but requires onshore manufacturing processes to do so.
  • Development of product prototypes, to demonstrate performance for the application and allow for market testing. For new materials, providing evidence of circularity at this stage is important.
  • Systems to support circularity of new products. When new materials are coming onto the market their whole life cycle, including end-of-life options, needs to be considered and infrastructure and systems developed to keep the resource in circulation.

Actions to support uptake of bio-based materials will be covered further in Scion’s Roadmap for New Zealand’s New Plastics Economy.

More case studies

Reducing the carbon footprint of plastics by using recycled plastic

Can recycling contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of plastic?

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

Not all plastic fibres are captured by Statistics NZ import data. We estimated the weight of synthetic textiles imported into Aotearoa New Zealand as finished products.

A reusable system to replace single-use cups

Reusable cups at festivals in Aotearoa New Zealand can save thousands of plastic cups from going to landfill.

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 Te Aho Tū Roa and Enviroschools.

Empowering brands to make informed packaging decisions

The Sustainable Business Network (SBN), in partnership with the Ministry for Primary Industries, Foodstuffs NZ and New Zealand King Salmon, has run a three-part plastics packaging masterclass series to help empower brands to make informed decisions around their packaging choices.

Operation Clean Sweep

Plastic pellets, or nurdles, are the raw material of the plastics manufacturing industry. They are commonly found in beach and river clean ups. The plastic manufacturing industry in Aotearoa New Zealand identified this as a key issue for their members to address.

What’s stopping the uptake of new materials?

An outline of critical success factors to drive local development and uptake of sustainable new materials as part of a circular economy.

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.

Controlled plastic decomposition

​A long-term solution to the decomposition of non-biodegradable plastic might be found by building on exciting new science aimed at engineering enzymes, or selecting microorganisms, that can digest traditionally non-biodegradable plastic in environmentally friendly conditions.

Plastic Bag Free Raglan, Pēke Kirihou Kore Whāingaroa

In Raglan, a whole community worked together to engage in significant behaviour change around one troublesome item of waste – single-use plastic carry bags.