Plastics - a circular economy approach

“Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it. And that means the onus is on us to be far smarter in how we use this miracle material.”

Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme from 2016 to 2018.

Moving New Zealand towards a circular New Plastics Economy

March 2022: Scion has released a report on how New Zealand might reach the objective of zero plastic waste:

The ‘Roadmap for New Zealand’s New Plastics Economy’ project is being led by Scion. The project aims to:

  • Develop a New Zealand vision of the New Plastics Economy
  • Guide NGOs and government departments
  • Work the New Zealand plastic industry to outline the barriers, challenges and opportunities and ways to use or overcome these
  • Bring together key stakeholders to rethink and redesign the future of plastics, starting with packaging.
Florian Graichen's presentation to the RoyalSociety Te Apārangi Parliamentary Speaker's Science Forum 2019 (June) on tackling the challenges of plastic waste in New Zealand using circular economy approaches.

The New Plastics Economy initiative is being is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and being adopted internationally.

The work is funded by the Ministry for the Environment WasteMinimisation Fund.

Plastic microparticles in New Zealand marine environments

Plastic microparticles were first found on the New Zealand coastline in the 1970s.

A study looking at the microparticles in Auckland waterways and coastlines was carried out by Scion during 2018/2019.

Microparticles were present in most of the samples collected from 29 sites. Significantly higher numbers of microparticles were found on for west coast sites compared to those in the East.

Nearly 90% of the microparticles collected were fibres, which is typical of overseas results. Of these, about one third were plant-based,such as cellulose or regenerated cellulose like rayon. The other main sources of fibres were polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalte and polypropylene.

The work is a collaboration between Scion and the University of Canterbury, with support from the Waste Minimisation Fund, Packaging Council New Zealand (PACNZ), Auckland Council and WaterCare.



Stefan Hill, Portfolio Leader, Bio/Organic Chemistry