Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand

After broad consultation, the first project that the Office will be working on is a synthesis of approaches to reduce the impact of plastic and to explore the opportunities and challenge for alternatives in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Juliet has assembled an initial panel who will finalise the scope of the work and contribute to assessing evidence across disciplines. Aspects of the work will include, but not necessarily be limited to, the range of plastics entering New Zealand and the range of social and technological solutions to issues in the plastic life cycle – from production through to consumer behaviour and disposal.

Project details

The Rethinking Plastics project is underway. We are currently analysing and collating the evidence-base to guide a series of recommendations for Aotearoa New Zealand to mitigate the negative impacts of plastic while retaining its many benefits. Part of the project involves broad consultation with people ranging from community groups, business, waste management, research and local and central government.

Project scope

The panel finalised the initial project scope at the first meeting in February. The scope of the report is evolving as the project progresses, but fits within the following four workstreams:

  • Categorisation of plastics entering and leaving Aotearoa New Zealand. A current snapshot of the available data for plastic material flow through Aotearoa New Zealand. 
  • Life cycle assessment of product systems. Explanation of the role of life cycle assessment to measure the environmental impacts of plastics and a summary of the currently available evidence through case studies.
  • Innovation solutions. A synthesis and prioritisation of the opportunities available to mitigate our overuse and waste of plastics, including materials recovery, bio-plastics, alternative materials, logistics innovation and system redesign.
  • Changing our relationship with plastics. Analysing the methods that will be most effective to galvanise change at different levels, from individuals to communities, businesses, local and central government.

The draft of part 1 of Rethinking Plastics has been shared with the reference group for peer review, and also shared with the Prime Minister and Minister Sage in draft form. This workstream was completed ahead of the others to support the policy agenda and will form part of the larger report due later in the year. Note that this chapter may evolve as the remainder of the project progresses and further data comes to light and will be finalised when the full report is complete.

Reference group

In addition to a core panel, we are also maintaining a larger reference group of people who are contributing to our project through consultation and peer review to help us make sure the advice we provide is timely and relevant. If you would like to be part of our reference group, please get in touch at

Meeting agendas and minutes

So far, we have had three full panel meetings with further meetings scheduled for August and September. You can see the agendas and minutes for those meetings below.

Rethinking plastics resource portal

A key issue met during preparation of our report is the lack of a central resource for information on plastics across the entire value chain, including the effects of plastic pollution. In response, we are developing a resource portal to house key reports for many different aspects of rethinking plastics.


Panel members

Panel members and OPMCSA staff at the first panel meeting. From left to right: George Slim, Sarah McLaren, Bethanna Jackson, Olga Pantos, James Wright, Elspeth MacRae, Juliet Gerrard, Abbie Reynolds, Niki Harre, Mark Staiger, Diane Ruwhiu, Stephen Harris, Rachel Chiaroni-Clarke. Absent; Melanie Mark-Shadbolt.


Microplastics have been in the news this year, most recently with the release of a report from the World Health Organisation.  You can download a very handy information sheet on this topic here  and access the full report here. 

For what this means in Aotearoa New Zealand, check out this interview with one of our #rethinkplastic plastic members, Dr Olga Pantos here.

Recycling better

We can all help with this project by starting to change the way we do things. The Ministry for the Environment has a useful page on recycling that covers plastics that is a great starting point.

You can also look for information on how to recycle on your local council’s website, as what’s accepted and how you should present it will be specific to your council.

Follow the Soft Plastics Recycling page to see which supermarkets have restarted soft plastic collection.

A quick update

A quick update

Kia ora koutou, It has been a very busy month in our Office, with lots of activity on our various work streams, and some rapid reprioritisation to assist in collating an evidence base for those supporting recovery...

Read More

Contact us about Rethinking Plastics

If you have any suggestions or want to help, please get in touch with us at 


  Phone: + 64 9 923 6318

Mailing Address

Office of the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor
The University of Auckland
Private Bag 92019
Victoria Street West
Auckland 1142
New Zealand