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23 April 2021

Media release: New Zealand ranks second to last in international packaging recyclability trial

The results are in and it seems New Zealand clean green image isn’t so squeaky clean when it comes to recycling packaging.

Consumer organisations, including Consumer NZ, from nine countries assessed packaging recyclability and labelling of 11 popular products.

New Zealand ranked second to last in the trial, with 57% of the packaging assessed as not recyclable – only Brazil fared worse. In comparison, Australia had a 14% non-recyclable rate. France, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Portugal, and the United Kingdom also participated.

Products assessed were available in each country. The five products that weren’t easily recyclable in Aotearoa were:

  • KitKat chocolate bar
  • M&M Peanut chocolates
  • Pringles chips
  • San Pellegrino Sparkling Water
  • Toblerone chocolate bar.

The packaging for Pringles was particularly bad, consisting of a tube made of mixed materials (plastic, cardboard, foil and aluminium) that can’t be easily separated. 

“It’s disappointing to see how poorly New Zealand fared when it comes to packaging recyclability. With 57% of packaging assessed as not recyclable, there’s a lot of room for improvement. It certainly doesn’t line up with the clean green image we pride ourselves on,” Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said.

“Part of the issue is that our recycling capabilities vary greatly throughout the country.”

The trial found that no product was 100% recyclable and labelling was often unclear and confusing for consumers.

What can you do? 

  • Choose products with packaging that’s clear, sleeveless (or remove sleeves before dropping into your recycling bin), and made from plastics 1, 2 or 5.

  • Avoid mixed material packaging (for example, the Pringles tube).

  • Call on manufacturers to use more recyclable or alternative packaging, and to have clear labelling explaining how to recycle their packaging.

  • Take a few moments in the supermarket to choose a product that’s more recyclable.

  • Choose products that use recycled materials in their packaging.

  • Check with your council about what can and can’t be recycled in your area, and recycle as much as you can (and make sure it’s clean). 

Read more about the global packaging recycling assessment here.

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