Rethinking Plastics – Appendices

Appendix 1: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The following table highlights a series of targets from the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) relevant to plastics that informed Rethinking Plastics, and the Aotearoa New Zealand’s initiatives and challenges related to these, as outlined in New Zealand’s first Voluntary National Review.

Goal Relevant targets NZ review: stated challenges NZ review: stated initiatives Comments

Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all


Target 6.3: By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally Reducing sources of pollution Essential Freshwater policy programme While preventing flow of plastic packaging to waterways can be achieved, more than 85% of the microplastics in our waterways are from tyres, paint, clothing and other textiles. This is challenging to deal with on a global scale.
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation

Target 9.4: By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities


Lack of visibility and certainty in the pipeline of infrastructure projects that are likely to occur in the future

Expenditure and number of people engaged in research and innovation below comparable international averages


Developing a 30 year infrastructure strategy

Lifting spending on R&D to 2% of GDP by 2027

Implementing an R&D Tax Incentive

Provincial Growth Fund to support regional development


Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable


Target 11.6: By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management.

Balancing making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable against accommodating population growth, managing urban expansion, and preserving the natural environment

Mitigating hazards and risks from natural disasters

Focus on strategy to reduce waste sent to landfill, via circular economy thinking


Could build on circular cities concepts

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns


Target 12.3: By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses

Target 12.4: By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.

Target 12.5: By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.

Target 12.6: Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.

Target 12.7: Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities

Target 12.8: By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature.


Waste to levied landfills increased by 20%

From 2014 to 2017, set to continue

NZ is one of the highest generators of household waste per capita in the OECD

Ensuring we can sustainably manage levels of tourism



Launch of  NZ Plastic Packaging Declaration

Signing New Plastics Economy Global Commitment

Developing a Plastics Action Plan

Banned sale and manufacture of certain products containing microbeads and single-use plastic shopping bags

Looking at expanding the waste levy

More strategic investment in waste management

Promoting appropriate product stewardship schemes

Work programme in place to upgrade the national database for waste to get a more accurate picture of commercial and industrial waste streams and recycling rates

New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX) now requires specific reporting on environmental, social and economic sustainability issue in  Corporate Governance Code

Tourism Strategy to guide sustainable growth and NZ Tourism Sustainability Commitment

Auckland Council’s vision to be zero waste by 2040 as stated in their Waste Management and Minimisation Plan


Opportunity to build on rethinking plastics in NZ Tourism Sustainability Commitment

Potential conflict between reducing plastic packaging waste and reducing food waste

Has since consulted on priority products for mandatory product stewardship

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources Target 14.1: By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.

Difficult to assess NZ-specific progress related to ecosystems

Lack of data on

the scale of polluting activities (for example farming and forestry) make it difficult to assess potential progress on preventing and reducing marine pollution by 2025


Activities to reduce marine pollution from land-based sources (microbead and plastic bag ban, work programmes on waste)

Fisheries Change Programme to ensure NZ fisheries continues sustainable practices

Investments in R&I for marine science and tech

Collaborating with Sustainable Coastlines on beach litter monitoring project

Opportunity to incorporate rethinking plastics into Fisheries Change Programme

Operation Clean Sweep programme by Plastic NZ is an initiative to prevent flow of plastic pellets, flake and powder from entering waterways.

Appendix 2: Examples of plastics/waste resources on the Science Learning Hub
Appendix 3: Current labelling and categorisation approaches for plastics used in Aotearoa New Zealand
Approach Strengths Limitations

Voluntary use of global identification system for resin type: NZ’s plastic industry uses the ASTM International standard ASTM D7611/D7611M, but this is not a regulated requirement


Important label within the industry

Globally recognised

Widely adopted by NZ plastics manufacturers (in 2009, Plastics NZ developed a resource to guide the voluntary labelling of plastics in NZ)

Limited in level of detail for plastics outside of the key resin groups (e.g. biodegradable plastics, including compostable plastics, are grouped along with other less common plastics under the resin ID #7 (‘Other’), but the appropriate way to dispose of plastics in ‘other’ may be different)

Does not actually tell people whether a plastic product can or will be recycled

Not well understood by the public

Voluntary use of ISO standards: There are several ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standards related to plastics that organisations may use for accreditation, identification and marking, and symbols and abbreviated terms International consistency possible

Doesn’t identify whether a product is recyclable in a certain context

Not consumer-friendly

Use of harmonised trade codes for import and export goods: Raw resin must be categorised according to the Harmonised Trade System trade commodity 39, ‘Plastics and articles thereof’. Some other articles are captured as being made ‘of plastic’ within other commodity codes


Established and used for all imported goods

International consistency

Coding used for import/export data (harmonised trade code) does not capture the amount and types of all plastic imported and exported into the country. While it captures comprehensive data for raw resin, it is limited in how it captures plastic within finished products and packaged goods

Industry-led guidance on terminology: To aid consistent use and understanding of terminology, Plastics NZ provided definitions and terms for degradable plastics in 2009. More recently, WasteMINZ developed consumer-facing resources on terminology for compostable, biodegradable and oxo-degradable plastic products and produced best practice guidelines for advertising of compostable products and packaging with Plastics NZ


Detailed and localised




Uptake limited because voluntary

Not all businesses aware of resources

Appendix 4: Modern Landfill operational standards

Prior to the development and operation of a modern landfill, a comprehensive Resource Consent Application and Assessment of Environmental Effects needs to be prepared and the proposal is subjected to public consultation and a rigorous publicly notified consent process under the Resource Management Act. The proposal will require numerous consents including, but not limited to, Discharge to Land, to Air and to Water; Industrial Trade Activity; Land Use and Water Take.

If approved, consents will be granted with strict consent conditions relating to the construction and operation of the facility. Detailed designs prepared by Chartered Engineering Consultants in accordance with the application and consent conditions will need to be approved by an specialist independent Peer Review Panel and subsequently by the regulator. During the construction process, the liner (see below) and other construction works will be subjected to rigorous Quality Assurance and Quality Control programmes undertaken by independent specialists. Once these specialists have verified that the liner is constructed in accordance with the consent conditions and specifications, they will prepare a report recommending approval. This report must then be reviewed and approved by the independent Peer Review Panel and subsequently by the Regulator before the Regulator provides approval for the placement of waste.

The purpose of a landfill lining system is to contain any leachate, including microplastics, within the landfill and prevent it from entering the underlying soils or groundwater. It provides an ultra-low permeability containment system on which leachate is collected and removed from the landfill. For a modern landfill, a typical liner system would typically comprise one of the following two systems comprising from top to bottom:

  • Type 1 lining system
    • Leachate drainage material, with underlying cushion geotextile to protect the geomembrane
    • 5 mm HDPE geomembrane
    • 600 mm compacted clay with a coefficient of permeability k < 1 x 10-9 m/s.


  • Type 2 lining system
    • Leachate drainage material, with underlying cushion geotextile to protect the geomembrane
    • 5 mm HDPE geomembrane
    • Geosynthetic clay liner (GCL)
    • 600 mm compacted clay with a coefficient of permeability k < 1 x 10-8 m/s.

These two lining systems are considered to be equivalent to each other, and both options are commonly used.

A “fluff layer” of selected waste is placed immediately above the lining system. This layer is usually from the household street collection or otherwise carefully selected waste to contain no large or bulky items and no strong chemical contaminants that may affect the lining or leachate collection system. This offers further protection to the lining system.

All components of the lining system work together to contain leachate within the landfill and prevent leachate seepage until it can be extracted and treated.

Appendix 5: Life cycle assessment (LCA)

The four phases within the standard life cycle assessment (LCA) method are described and illustrated below.

  1. Goal and scope definition
    1. Goal: define why the LCA is being done, for what product, and for what audience.
    2. Scope: define the system boundary, functional unit, data parameters, target for data quality, impact assessment methods etc. This will depend on the product category rules (see Key Terms).
  2. Inventory analysis
    1. Measure the inputs (e.g. materials and energy) and outputs (e.g. carbon dioxide emissions, co-products) within the defined system boundary. These are the environmental loadings for the product across its whole life cycle.
  3. Impact assessment
    1. Choose the environmental impact categories (e.g. climate change, acidification, freshwater ecotoxicity) and quantify the equivalent impact for each environmental load (e.g. the climate change impact of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide).
  4. Interpretation
    1. Assess the results for completeness, sensitivity and consistency and identify key environmental improvement options.

Key terms

  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): a method to evaluate the environmental impacts of a product through its entire lifespan.
  • Product Category Rules (PCR): the LCA requirements for a specific product so that a fair comparison can be made between products in the same category.
  • Environmental Product Declaration (EPD): a third-party verified summary of an LCA, registered with a program such as the Australasian EPD programme
  • Environmental load: the quantity of an input or output associated with a process (e.g. water use, fossil fuel use, carbon dioxide emission to air, cadmium emission to soil)
  • Environmental impacts: categories of impacts with adverse impacts on ecosystems, human health and/or natural resources (e.g. climate change, eutrophication, freshwater toxicity). Environmental loads are assessed for their contribution to these impact categories.
  • Functional unit: the unit of analysis for a study.
  • Product system: the processes that are involved in supplying the physical product, materials, service, or building being studied in the LCA.
  • System boundary: the processes that will be included in the study. Not all studies will include the full life cycle and may limit analysis to a certain part of the product system’s life cycle (e.g. a “cradle-to-gate” study will consider processes from extraction of raw materials through to the point where a product exits the manufacturing facility; a ‘cradle-to-grave’ study will consider processes from extraction of raw materials, through manufacture, distribution, use and on to final waste management.

Functional unit in practice

It is important to evaluate single versus multi-use products in terms of the equivalent services delivered by these alternative options. In LCA studies, this service is quantified as the unit of analysis for a study (called the ‘functional unit’) and is the basis upon which alternative options are compared. Examples of functional units include ‘delivery of 340 ml coffee’ for coffee cups) and ‘shaving the face 100 times’ for a razor. It is also important to remember that many of our products may enter a second life if we pass them onto others once we have finished with them; this avoids the need to manufacture more new products and reduces waste.

International standards and guidance

There are international standards and guidance for life cycle assessment methodology.

  • ISO (International Organization for Standardization) developed two standards for life cycle assessment and one for environmental product declaration
    • ISO 14040:2006, Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Principles and framework, provides a clear overview of the practice, applications and limitations of LCA to a broad range of potential users and stakeholders, including those with a limited knowledge of life cycle assessment.
    • ISO 14044:2006, Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Requirements and guidelines, is designed for the preparation of, conduct of, and critical review of, life cycle inventory analysis. It also provides guidance on the impact assessment phase of LCA and on the interpretation of LCA results, as well as the nature and quality of the data collected.  
    • ISO 14025:2006 – establishes the principles and specifies the procedures for developing Type III environmental declaration programmes and Type III environmental declarations. It specifically establishes the use of the ISO 14040 series of standards in the development of Type III environmental declaration programmes and Type III environmental declarations.
  • The UNEP and SETAC established the ‘Life Cycle Initiative’
  • The Consumer Goods Forum developed a protocol on sustainable packaging design
  • International Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) system
  • Developers and researchers
    • Life cycle assessment is an active field of research and the practice is constantly being improved. For example, Laurent et al. published methodological guidance for better practice for LCA studies of solid waste management systems.[1]

LCA in Aotearoa New Zealand

The ongoing local LCA workstreams in Aotearoa New Zealand include:

Local stakeholders include researchers who refine the LCA method and perform academic analyses, consultants and industry associations who provide LCA for businesses, and the groups who commission LCA studies (e.g. industry, government, NGOs).

While it is becoming more commonplace for companies to perform LCA on their product or system in Aotearoa New Zealand, it is often still cost prohibitive, particularly for smaller businesses. New Zealand companies who do an LCA on their product and publish a report on it may be able to achieve certification within the Australasian EPD programme.

[1] A. Laurent et al., “Review of Lca Studies of Solid Waste Management Systems – Part Ii: Methodological Guidance for a Better Practice,” Waste Management 34, no. 3 (2014).

Appendix 6: Plastics research projects in Aotearoa New Zealand
Appendix 7: Tools to support enactment of Māori knowledge systems in environment

Existing tools to support enactment of kaitiakitanga operating in the Māori agribusiness sector might be useful for engaging a Māori-centred approach to address plastic impact on the environment. These include:

  • Mauri Compass Tool: An environmental assessment tool and framework to understand the mauri (the essential quality and vitality of a being or entity) of a waterbody and interconnected parts of its system. It involves using standardised tests to assess 12 parameters (referred to as compass points), assigning a value for each from 1 to 5. The assessment of tangata whenua, wairua, mahinga kai, and culture can only be assigned by tangata whenua. The others draw on Western science and include: habitat, biodiversity, water biology, water chemistry, tuna growth rates, tuna species, tuna abundance and population and tuna biological health.
  • Te Mauri Model Decision Making Framework: The ‘mauri-o-meter’ is a tool that assesses the impact of practices or activities on the mauri of a resource and attributes scores and weightings to each. The wellbeing factors are interconnected and include; mauri of the whānau (family, economic), community (social), hapū (cultural) and ecosystems (environment). The framework supports decision making by integrating quantitative and qualitative data and providing a sustainability assessment.
  • Cultural Health Index (CHI): A Māori-led and developed tool to monitor change in a specific environment based on three components: 1) whether the site has traditional significance to tangata whenua (yes/no); 2) a qualitative assessment of the mahinga kai (natural resources) of the site; 3) a stream health index made up of qualitative ordinal rankings. The tool is highly adaptable for different environmental domains.
  • Te ao Māori framework for environmental reporting: this scoping document includes a series of measures for environmental monitoring that align with te ao Māori values and would give full voice to the Māori world view for reporting on environmental impacts.
Appendix 9: Imported synthetic textiles
Appendix 11: Material flows analysis of PET bottles
Appendix 13: Non-municipal landfill

Non-municipal landfills include cleanfills, industrial fills, construction and demolition fills and farm dumps. Few studies have estimated the composition of waste to class 2-4 landfills. The study reviewing potential impacts of adjustments to the waste levy cites 0% of waste to these landfills being plastic, based on a survey of waste materials to Fulton Hogan operated cleanfills in 2003.

Several studies report tonnages of waste to non-municipal landfill, but few detail landfill composition, including plastic, so it is difficult to know the actual proportion of waste going into these landfills that is plastic.

In 2012, the Ministry for the Environment engaged Tonkin & Taylor Ltd to develop a database of non-municipal solid waste landfills throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. The primary purpose of this database was for estimating greenhouse gas emissions, and a secondary use was to inform review of the waste disposal levy. This study did not report the proportion of waste that was plastic.

The non-municipal solid waste landfill database was retrospective and only captured data until 2012. It is not framework for ongoing data collection. Where data was missing, information was extrapolated. From this database, total tonnes of waste going to non-municipal landfill was back-cast and projected through to 2015, predicting an upward trend (see figure on left). Data is also shown by region (see figure on right).

Appendix 14: Best practice data collection for plastics

To develop a framework and data collection system that will work in Aotearoa New Zealand we should build on international best practice, such as the following examples.




Marine plastics

  • Work around standardisation has been underway for at least 10 years, and is a very important part of gaining international agreement on the nature and scale of the challenges, e.g. GESAMP
  • EU: Assessment of measures to reduce marine litter from single use plastics

Our vision

Our panel imagined a future of what plastic use could look like in Aotearoa New Zealand, which set the stage for Rethinking Plastics.


Our recommendations that follow reflect the scale of the plastics problem that Aotearoa New Zealand currently faces. There is no silver bullet to fix this issue – we need to pull every lever.

Plastic resource portal

A central resource for information on plastics across the entire value chain, including the effects of plastic pollution.

Case Studies

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-…

Should wine bottles be plastic?

In LCAs of wine, the analysis extends from growing grapes through to winemaking, and on to distribution, consumption and end-of-life management of the empty wine bottle. The production and transport…

Saying no to single-use coffee cups

A spill-over effect of the recent single-use plastic shopping bag ban is that many people who have now adopted the practice of taking reusable bags to shops are making other efforts to avoid single…

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%…

Incentivising use of recycled plastic

The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) in the US established the ‘Recycling Demand Champions’ initiative to make plastic recycling a mature and stable market. The aim is that by having company…

Developing onshore closed-loop mechanical recycling solutions

In 2017, Flight Plastics established the first closed-loop mechanical recycling system in Aotearoa New Zealand for PET (#1), producing clear recycled PET (rPET) containers that, due to food hygiene…

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…

What’s stopping the uptake of new materials?

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…

The road to reducing microplastics from tyres

Numerous studies have identified tyre abrasion as the leading cause of microplastics emissions into the environment, far outweighing other sources such as manufacturing resin, washing of synthetic…

Microplastics from our clothing

Scion’s study of microparticles in waterways in the Auckland region identified 87% of microparticles were fibres.[1] Our clothing is a major source of microplastic pollution and we need effective…

At a glance summary

Two-page summary of the findings 

Key messages

40-page summary of the key messages 

Full report

The long and detailed full report


All infographics developed for this report