A future free from plastic waste

Dr Florian Graichen (Scion), Rachel Barker (Plastics New Zealand), Hon. Eugenie Sage, Dennise Chapman (Plastics New Zealand), Marc Gaugler (Scion) and Sharon Humphreys (Packaging Council of New Zealand).

Plastic waste is an undeniably large global challenge, but it is important to remember that plastic itself is not the problem. It’s what we do with it. The onus is on us to be far smarter in how we use this material.

We have a vision for a future global economy where plastics never become waste thanks to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s report New Plastic Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics. This vision is based on circular economy principles and countries like the United Kingdom are already adopting it.

In May 2019, Associate Minister for the Environment Hon. Eugenie Sage announced a new Scion-led project working with New Zealand’s plastics industry to build our own roadmap to a new plastics economy.

Kiwi challenges

Unlike other countries, New Zealand’s plastics industry is influenced by three factors that can greatly shape the way we transition to the new economy.

  • The New Zealand plastics market is small. This means we have less leverage to demand change and it affects the feasibility of establishing a comprehensive plastic recycling sector.
  • All polymers used to make plastic products are imported. This makes access to new material options and working with the full life-cycle of plastics challenging for the domestic plastic industry. 
  • Most of New Zealand’s manufactured plastic products are exported, and demand is subject to the importers’ requirements (consumer or regulatory).


To address these unique New Zealand factors, the project team will be working closely with industry so they can lead the way.

Work will begin with setting up a stakeholder group of industry and research partners, Packaging New Zealand, Plastics NZ and the Sustainable Business Network. The project will also establish a material flow of plastics in New Zealand, understanding where it goes, and how it is dealt with as a waste.

“This is not about regulation,” says Project Leader Marc Gaugler.

“Working with manufacturers allows us to start at the beginning of the value chain and that is what will set our roadmap apart.”

This two-year project is funded by the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund. The final ‘New Zealand - New Plastics Economy Roadmap’ will be completed mid-2021.

For further information on New Zealand’s New Plastics Economy Roadmap contact

Marc Gaugler

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