Resource portal – Rethinking plastics

Below are some resources to help you ‘rethink plastic’. This page is growing as our project continues. If you have or know of a resource that would be great to include here, please share it with us

Circular economy


A circular economy for Auckland: scoping the potential economic benefits – Prepared for the Sustainable Business Network by Sapere research group (May 2018). An analysis of the potential economic benefits of a more circular economy in a New Zealand setting.


The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) is a UK-based organisation established to accelerate the transformation to a circular economy. They work with business, academia and governments to build a framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design. The EMF publishes a wide variety of reports including:

Accelerating circular supply chains for plastics: a landscape of transformational technologies that stop plastic waste, keep materials in play and grow markets – Closed Loop Partners (April 2019). A report developing a shared landscape and understanding of next steps for investment strategies and infrastructure for converting plastic materials into a range of safe and high-quality materials.

A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy – European Commission (2017). Brief report laying out a series of actions the EU could take to reduce plastic waste.

The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics – World Economic Forum (2016). Explores how collaboration along the extended global plastic packaging production and after-use value chain, as well as with governments and NGOs, can achieve systemic change to overcome stalemates in today’s plastics economy in order to move to a more circular model.

Product stewardship

Product Stewardship: what our members think – WasteMINZ (May 2018). A survey of WasteMINZ members (101 responses) showed that most were in favour of some sort of mandatory product stewardship scheme for problematic waste streams. 



Turning the tide on plastic microparticles. Phase 2 – Separation, quantification and analysis of microparticles obtained from sediments collected from Auckland beaches – Scion (June 2019). This report includes the results of a Scion-led study funded by the Waste Minimisation Fund that quantified the amount and types of microplastics at 39 sites across Auckland.


A Scientific Perspective on Microplastics in Nature and Society – SAPEA Consortium (January 2019). A comprehensive review of the current evidence on health, environmental and societal impacts of nano- and microplastic pollution. 

Container deposit scheme (CDS)


The inCENTive to recycle: the case for a Container Deposit System for New Zealand – Envision (September 2015). The report describes the benefits of and lays out a plan for the introduction of a container deposit system in New Zealand. 

Evaluating the costs and benefits of introducing a container deposit scheme for New Zealand – summary of analysis – Covec for the Public Place Recycling Scheme (March 2016). The report estimates that the introduction of a container deposit scheme would increase beverage container recycling to 82%, but would impose significant costs. 

Cost-benefit analysis of a container deposit scheme – Preston Davies for Auckland Council (August 2017) The report estimates that recycling rates of beverage containers would increase to 82% and the benefits would outweigh the cost by at least a factor of two, taking in to account reduced landfill and litter collection costs. WasteMINZ published a summary report of this work.

Costs and benefits of a Container Deposit Scheme for New Zealand – Warren Snow (July 2016) A review of the Covec report on CDS from March 2016.

Recovery rate of beverage containers in New Zealand – Waste Not Consulting (2018). An estimate of the number of beverage containers that were collected and recycled through kerbside recycling collections in New Zealand and an estimate the proportion of beverage containers that were recovered and diverted from landfill disposal.


Voluntary and economic incentives to reduce littering of drinks containers and promote recycling – UK Government (2018) A comprehensive analysis of the evidence collated to inform whether a deposit return scheme should be implemented in the UK. It includes global evidence of the effectiveness of these schemes and identifies gaps in knowledge.

Deposit return scheme manifesto – Zero Waste Europe (July 2019) A short summary of evidence to support deposit return schemes, which includes a call to action for EU institutions and member states to make refillable targets, a deposit return for all beverages, and to expand the scheme beyond beverages.

Best practice international packaging approaches – Prepared for PwC on behalf of the EPHC and the Packaging Impacts
Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (2011) An analysis of the effectiveness of a range of different approaches for packaging recovery, recycling and litter reduction from different countries.

Bottled Up (2000-2010) – Beverage container recycling stagnates – Container Recycling Institute (2013) An analysis of the US container recycling rates and trends over a decade, which includes differences in rates for states with and without deposit schemes for beverage containers.

Alternative Policies to Increase Recycling of Plastic Water Bottles in the United States – Viscusi et al (2012) A study examining the efffectiveness of various policy mechanisms to increase recycling of plastic water bottles, based on US data. The study concludes with five principal lessons: economic incentives matter; how effective incentives are varies across the population; various different policies may somewhat offset the estimated net effect on recycling for a single policy; many people choose to recycle because it feels good, regardless of a financial incentive; incentivising recycling can lead to a big recycling rate increase because people shift from being non-recyclers to diligent recyclers.



Waste Minimisation Act 2008 – Parliamentary Counsel Office (January 2018). The purpose of this Act is to encourage waste minimisation and a decrease in waste disposal in order to — (a) protect the environment from harm; and (b) provide environmental, social, economic, and cultural benefits.

Trashing waste: unlocking the wasted potential on NZ’s Waste Minimisation Act – Blumhardt,H. Policy Quarterly (November 2018). This academic article outlines a range of policy solutions available to the government under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008, analyses why these policy tools have been underutilised to date, and proffers a roadmap for overcoming the identified obstacles.


UN guidelines for framework legislation for integrated waste management – United Nations Environment Programme (February 2016). The purpose of these Guidelines is to support countries with clear advice for their efforts to introduce or enhance their waste management legislation. The principles they are based on consider ways that waste can be diverted from release into the environment while providing for economic development that enhances social development to reinforce good environmental management within a supportive governance framework.

Improving Plastics Management: Trends, policy responses, and the role of international co-operation and trade – OECD (September 2018). The report provides an overview of current plastics production and use, the environmental impacts that this is generating and identifies the reasons for currently low plastics recycling rates, as well as what can be done about it.

Solving plastic pollution through accountability – WWF (2019). Overview of current global plastic waste with projections to 2030. The report proposes a series of actions for government, business and the public to tackle the problem taking a systems approach.

Single-use plastics: A roadmap for sustainability – United Nations Environment (2018) The report looks at what governments, businesses and individuals have achieved at national and sub-national levels to curb the consumption of single use plastics.

Legal limits on single-use plastics and microplastics: a global review of national laws and regulations – United Nations Environment (2018) A global overview on the progress of countries in passing laws and regulations that limit the manufacture, import, sale, use and disposal of selected single-use plastics and microplastics which have a great impact in the production of marine litter.

Plastic Drawdown programme summary report – Common Seas (May 2019) Details of the approach from a UK-based organisation to identify and analyse optimal policy instruments to reduce plastic pollution in rivers and the ocean. It involves modelling a country’s plastic waste mass and composition and how this will change to 2030; mapping waste pathways and leakage; analysing the impact of key policies; and charting a path for government to implement these policies.

Working Towards a Zero Plastic Waste Solution – UK Research and Innovation. An info-graphic that summarises how a zero plastic waste system would function in the UK. This is compared with the current waste stream.


Packaging Star – Crunch & Flourish. The Packaging Star is a digital label that rates how likely the packaging that you buy is to be in a material loop (recycled/reused). Read more in a recent Spin Off article here.

Australasian Recycling Label – Planet Ark. The Australasian Recycling Label is an easy to understand package labelling system for Australia and New Zealand.

Thumbs Up New Zealand – Petition of Niamh Peren (2019). A proposed product labelling system based on a traffic light system to communicate to consumers whether packaging is made from recycled content and/or is recyclable in Aotearoa New Zealand, or if it would go to landfill. 


Plastic and Health: The hidden costs of a plastic planet – CIEL (February 2019) This report provides a detailed overview of the health impacts associated with plastic at every stage of its supply chain and lifecycle, and it reveals the numerous exposure routes through which human health is impacted at each stage.

No Plastic in Nature: Assessing Plastic Ingestion from Nature to People – Analysis for WWF by Dalberg and the University of Newcastle (June 2019). A summary of an academic publication from the University of Newcastle which attempts to quantify the amount of plastic that an average person would ingest every week through consumption of drinking water, shellfish, beer and salt.

Health risk assessment reports | ESR (December 2022)

  • Microplastics are found in various forms and are ubiquitous in the environment, being found in everything from air, water, food, and personal care products.
  • Exposure can be from oral, dermal, or inhalation.
  • In vitro and in vivo studies have been inconsistent in identifying uptake of MP in different organs.
  • MP have been found in human placental and meconium samples.
  • There is no dose-response relationship between MP and human health currently given the lack of evidence.
  • There are limited conclusive studies related to potential health effects from exposure to MP.
  • More research is needed to fully understand the extent of the risks of MP to human health.

Climate change

Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet – Center for International Environmental Law (May 2019). A detailed analysis of the climate change costs of plastic through the whole life cycle of use – from the extraction of fossil fuels as feedstock for plastics through to the climate change impacts of plastic that has leaked into the ocean. They also published an executive summary

Waste to energy

Municipal Waste Management Strategy Review and Waste-to-Energy Potentials in New Zealand – Perrot et al. Sustainability (August 2018) An academic paper discussing municipal waste management and Waste-to-Energy potentials in New Zealand. 

Product design

Design for Recycled Content Guide – Sustainable Packaging Coalition (2019). An online guide providing practical recommendations to inform strategy and decision making by outlining existing challenges to address an array of environmental considerations across the packaging life cycle.

Considerations and Criteria for Sustainable Plastics from a Chemicals Perspective – OECD (May 2018). The report identifies design principles for developing new sustainable plastics from a chemicals perspective.

Reuse and recycling of plastic packaging for private use – Danish Forum for Circular Plastic Packaging (2018). A manual for designing plastic packaging intended for use in consumer products. 

Tesco Preferred Materials List – Tesco (April 2019). A traffic-light approach outlining the materials that this UK-based retailer will stock and those that will be removed from their shelves.

Volumes of plastic produced

Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made – Geyer et al. Science Advances (July 2017). Research article identifying and synthesizing dispersed data on production, use, and end-of-life management of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives, to present the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever. Source of the widely used figure of 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic produced since their discovery.



Plastics in the Environment – Royal Society of New Zealand. The Plastics in the Environment report provides a summary of evidence about the use of plastics and their effects on the environment and human health. You can explore all of the reports infographics here.


Plastic Atlas – The Green Political Foundation. The Plastic Atlas explores very different aspects of plastic and conveys a lot of these through infographics. You can look at all of the atlas infographic on Flickr.



The Packaging Dilemma – Radio New Zealand (July 2019). A panel discussion on the future of plastic packaging chaired by Kim Hill and including: Sharon Humphreys of the NZ Packaging Council, Mike Sammons from Foodstuffs, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Prof. Juliet Gerrard, and Assoc. Prof. Xiaomeng ​Wu, an expert in food packaging and safety from the China Agricultural University, Beijing.

New Zealand’s Plastic Packaging System: an initial circular economy diagnosis – Circular Economy Accelerator, Sustainable Business Network (November 2018). An overview of the use and end-of-life of plastics used for packaging in New Zealand with recommendations to transform the system into part of the circular economy. 

Review of packaging mass balance measurements – Infometrics for the Packaging Council of New Zealand (April 2015). A review of the method, data sources and present initial estimates of the mass balance of packaging materials in New Zealand. The approach relies on Statistics New Zealand export data for estimates of recovery volumes and to calculate recovery rates as a proportion of population or GDP measures rather than material specific estimates of consumption or usage. A critical aspect of the choice of method is to allow reliable and easily calculated international comparisons of packaging material recovery rates.


Rigid plastic packaging – design tips for recycling – Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP UK) (2018) A simple report aimed at brands to support them to design their packaging so it can be recycled in the local context. It explains the particularly problematic features of packaging that make it difficult to recycle.

UK Plastics Pact Roadmap – WRAP UK (November 2018) Brief report from the charity, in conjunction with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, on how the UK can meet targets to eliminate unnecessary single-use packaging, have 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging, 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted and 30% recycled content in plastic packaging. Lists challenges and potential solutions. 

Malaysia’s roadmap towards zero single-use plastics 2018-2030 – Malaysian Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment & Climate Change. An action plan for the country to transition away from single-use plastics, including milestones, challenges and an implementation framework. The implementation framework includes roles and responsibilities for different groups (federal and state governments, industry, NGOs and the public) and details of the governance mechanisms, which include a joint ministerial commitee, steering committee, technical committee and permanent secretariat. 

Resource recovery and recycling


National Resource Recovery Taskforce: New Zealand’s options in response to effects created by the implementation of the National Sword Policy – Ministry for the Environment (February 2019). A briefing note summarising the work of the Ministry’s National Resource Recovery Taskforce, which was established in response to China’s National Sword policy. It includes 8 recommendations to address the current market issues, which were all accepted by the Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage. 

The briefing is based on two reports:

Rebooting recycling – what can Aotearoa do? – WasteMINZ (May 2018) The report outlines a series of proposed actions to increase recycling in New Zealand after China stopped accepting international material for recycling. 


10 point plan for results-based recycling – Australian Council of Recycling (October 2018). What it says on the tin. 

Australian Packaging Covenant – Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) (January 2018). The covenant is an agreement between industry participants and state, territory and Commonwealth governments to optimise resource recovery of packaging through the supply chain and prevent the impacts of fugitive packaging on the environment. 

2016-17 Australian Plastics Recycling Survey National report– Envisage Works (May 2018). Information collected through a detailed survey of Australian reprocessors, Australian resin manufacturers and importers, and extensive interrogation of Australian Customs data, sourced from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides a comprehensive picture of the consumption, flow, recovery and recycling of plastics in Australia, the state of reprocessing markets and assists in informing the status of product stewardship commitments in relation to plastic products.

New Plastics Economy: A Research, Innovation and Business Opportunity for Denmark – McKinsey & Company (January 2019). A study presenting the case for Denmark to improve its recycling of plastics by developing a portfolio of technologies. 

El Dorado of Chemical Recycling: State of play and policy challenges – Zero Waste Europe (August 2019). A case study exploring the implementation of recycling knowledge and technology in Europe. Six policy recommendations are made to encourage a low-waste Circular Economy.



Plastics in the Environment: Te Ao Hurihuri – The Changing World – The Royal Society Te Apārangi (July 2019). A report summarising how plastics enter the environment and the risks plastics pose to wildlife and humans.


Plastics and shallow water coral reefs: synthesis of the science for policy-makers – UN Environment Program (2019) A summary of the current evidence about what we know, the scale, source, impact, knowledge gaps and necessary actions regarding plastic pollution and shallow water coral reefs. 



Litter intelligence database – Sustainable Coastlines (2019 onwards). Live data, insights and actions to reduce environmental leakage of litter into the environment from Sustainable Coastlines’ citizen science beach litter project. Because the data collection methods align to the United Nations Environment Program / Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission methodology, data is of tier-1 standard which means it can be used for national, regional and international reporting.

The Te Tai Tokerau Debris Monitoring Project – NorthTec and the Northland Regional Council (2019 onwards). A citizen-science based project where the public can record details of litter through use of the Marine Debris Tracker app or a Google form. Results are displayed on the webpage. The TTTDMP is part of a multi-layered approach that provides litter data for prevention, advocacy, and policy against litter in our environment.

National Litter Survey Litter Field Count 2017/18 – Waste Not Consulting (June 2018). The Survey involved the counting and classifying of loose litter, in situ, at 300 transects in eight urban areas in New Zealand. The urban areas include 52% of the population of New Zealand.

National Litter Audit 2019 – Keep New Zealand Beautiful (September 2019). The Audit compiled data through the physical inspection and visual counting of litter in 413 sites across New Zealand.


Mapping of global plastics value chain and plastics losses to the environment, with a particular focus on the marine environment. – UN Environment (2018). This report provides a comprehensive overview of the global production and consumption of different polymers. Based on available literature on the losses of plastics throughout the plastic value chain, it estimates the annual mass of microplastics and macroplastics that are being lost to the environment.

Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean – Jambeck et al. Science (February 2015). An academic paper linking worldwide data on solid waste, population density, and economic status, to estimate the mass of land-based plastic waste entering the ocean.

Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060: Economic drivers and environmental consequences – OECD (October 2018). This report presents global projections of materials use and their environmental consequences, providing a quantitative outlook to 2060 at the global, sectoral and regional levels for 61 different materials (biomass resources, fossil fuels, metals and non-metallic minerals).

PlasticsEurope Operation Clean Sweep Report 2018 – PlasticsEurope (2019). Report on the progress of an accord amongst European plastics manufacturers to prevent loss of plastic raw material pellets into the environment.

Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic-free ocean – Ocean Conservatory (September 2015). A report detailing a series of solutions that could help to prevent leakage of plastic from land into the oceans – specifically focused on viable opportunities that exist today.

Australian National litter index for 2017-2018 – Keep Australia Beautiful (2018) Data from the biannual litter survey conducted across Australia.

Life cycle assessment (LCA)

Global Guidance Principles for Life Cycle Assessment Databases: A Basis for Greener Processes and Products – UNEP, SETAC and Life Cycle Initiative (2011). A report that outlines the principles for creating, managing, and disseminating datasets for the purpose of supporting life cycle assessments (LCAs) of globally produced products and services. 

The Norwegian østfoldforskning research institute publishes a variety of research on sustainability issues and lifecycle analysis, including:

Waste management


The New Zealand Waste Strategy: reducing harm, improving efficiency – Ministry for the Environment (October 2010). A revision of the New Zealand Waste Strategy, released in 2002, the report outlines progress to date -including introduction of the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 – and enables a more flexible approach to waste management and minimisation through two high level goals: reducing harm and improving efficiency. 

Local Government Waste Management Manifesto – WasteMINZ’s Territorial Authority Forum (January 2018). The report sets out 5 priority actions for central Government to enable the local government sector to reduce waste. 

Waste assessments and waste management and minimisation planning: a guide for territorial authorities – Ministry for the Environment (December 2015). Guide for councils to prepare waste assessments and waste minimisation plans. The Waste Minimisation Act 2008 (WMA) gives councils the responsibility to promote effective and efficient waste management and minimisation within their district. The WMA requires councils to adopt a waste management and minimisation plan, which must be reviewed every six years. 

The National Waste Data Framework developed by WasteMINZ. This project to develop a waste data framework was to establish the following:

    • Definitions for waste data terms
    • Protocols for gathering waste data that meets the definitions
    • Protocols for managing and reporting waste data
    • Roles and obligations of key parties
    • Information system requirements if we were to move towards consolidated national waste data reporting 

Reports produced include:

Economic Factors of Waste Minimisation in New Zealand – Covec for Ministry for the Environment (November 2012). This report examines a number of economic issues relating to waste disposal and alternatives in New Zealand. Specifically the report addresses: the rationale for government intervention in waste minimisation and the place of the waste disposal levy within this rationale; issues surrounding disposal pricing in New Zealand and the extent to which it is providing efficient incentives for waste minimisation; and the overall costs and benefits of waste minimisation and the contribution of the waste disposal levy towards increasing net benefits. 


What a waste 2.0 – A global snapshot of solid waste management to 2050 – World Bank Group (2018). The report aggregates extensive solid waste data at the national and urban levels. It estimates and projects waste generation to 2030 and 2050. Beyond the core data metrics from waste generation to disposal, the report provides information on waste management costs, revenues, and tariffs; special wastes; regulations; public communication; administrative and operational models; and the informal sector. 

Compostable plastic packaging

Biodegradable and compostable plastics in the environment – Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environement (July 2018). An online question-and-answer resource about biodegradable and compostable plastics that explains the science behind these products and clarifoes common misunderstandings.

Assessing the availability of composting facilities for events in NZ – Beyond the Bin (October 2015). The report identified 98 composting facilities around New Zealand with 12 able to accept and process event waste including food packaging and the food it contains.

A review of the availability of New Zealand composting facilities to process compostable coffee cups & food packaging – Beyond the Bin (June 2017). The report surveyed 27 relevant composting facilities from the database created in 2015 to look at barriers to processing event waste. Barriers include contamination, lack of education of waste producers as to what can be composted, and items mislabelled as compostable which are not.

Tackling coffee cups: Innovation identification and investment. A presentation from Beyond the Bin and the Packaging Forum on how compostable coffee cups can be managed based on the 2017 report.

Guides to terminology for compostable; biodegradable, and oxo-degradable products – WasteMINZ (April 2019). A collection of consumer resources covering the terminology around degradable plastic alternatives, standards confirming the products are compostable, and the best end of life options for each type. The resources include the summary guide It’s Complicated: A guide to biodegradable & Compostable plastic products and packaging.

Best Practice Guidelines for the Advertising of Compostable Products and Packaging – WasteMINZ and Plastics NZ (May 2019). Guidelines aimed at manufacturers and distributors of compostable products and packaging that cover the legislative requirements for advertising and communications; recommended steps to ensure they have substantiated any claims they make regarding the compostability of their products, and recommendations on communication messaging for the New Zealand content.

Considerations for compostable plastic packaging – WRAP UK (February 2020). Guidance for businesses to make choices about where to use compostable plastic packaging based on current infrastructure in the UK.


New Zealand Non-Municipal Landfill Database – Tonkin & Taylor for the Ministry for the Environment (January 2014). A survey of the non-municipal landfill sites operating in New Zealand by region. 

National Waste Disposal Survey – MWH for the Ministry for the Environment (March 2017). The report updates the data on non-levied landfill sites developed by Tonkin & Taylor in 2014. 

Waste disposal levy

Review of the Effectiveness of the Waste Disposal Levy 2017 – Ministry for the Environment (July 2017). This interim review reports on the effectiveness of the waste disposal levy and associated systems for the period of 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016. This review also reports on progress against the recommendations from the 2014 review and provides new recommendations for the future. 

A wasted opportunity – using the waste disposal levy to create economic and environmental advantage for Aotearoa New Zealand – Eunomia (June 2017). This study looked at what effect possible changes to the waste disposal levy could have. It concluded that there are likely to be sizable benefits for the economy, employment, and waste reduction if key changes are made. They also published a summary report.

Material flow analysis

APCO Packaging Material Flow Analysis 2018 – Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) (February 2018). A report from the Institute for Sustainable Studies at the University of Technology Sydney characterising waste material flows through the Australian packaging system using material flow analysis methodology. 

Behaviour and cultural transformation

National Litter Behaviour Research – Keep New Zealand Beautiful (March 2018). The results of the Littering Behaviour Study which provide a baseline on littering behaviour, attitudes and awareness in Aotearoa New Zealand. The findings show that New Zealanders are much more likely to dispose of rubbish properly than to litter. They also published a summary report.

Better Futures 2019 – Colmar Brunton (February 2019). The results of Colmar Brunton’s research which showed that plastics was a leading concern for New Zealanders when it came to environmental, social and sustainability issues.

Community initiatives

A purposeful project: based on the evolution of Plastic Bag Free Raglan Pēke Kirihou Kore Whāingaroa – Plastic Bag Free Raglan (June 2019). This detailed case study tells the story of the community initiative in Raglan that led to the end of single-use plastic bags in the town, along with learnings, methods and recommendations for other communities in Aotearoa to draw on for waste reduction initiatives.