It’s official: New Zealand is banning single-use plastics by 2022. Now businesses will have to prioritise sustainability in their supply chains more than ever.

Plastic pollution is a massive challenge, as society is constantly overproducing plastic waste every day. We produce nearly 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year that breaks down into smaller pieces of micro- and nano-plastics. And so it’s becoming extremely difficult to remove them from land, air, and water. 

The worst part? Half of all plastic items we produce are only for single-use. From water bottles to cutlery, single-use plastic (SUP) items take anywhere from 20 to 500 years to decompose and significantly harm our environment in the process.

Because of this worldwide concern, New Zealand is taking strides to address the plastic waste problem by banning all SUPs by 2022. New Zealanders are especially keen to tackle the plastic problem, as they are the highest waste generators in the world, coming in at an estimated 159 grams of plastics thrown away by each person every day. 

SUPs will be phased out in three stages from late 2022 to July 2025, allowing businesses to have time to adjust and find plastic- free alternatives. The ban includes the following plastic items: 

  • Plates, straws, bowls
  • Cutleries 
  • Polystyrene food and drink packaging
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Produce bags 
  • Fruit labels
  • Cotton buds

These are the items they’ve identified, as New Zealand Environment Minister David Park, said that these SUPs often end up in landfills that cause soil, waterway, and ocean pollution. For now, the ban will not extend to single-use cups, wet wipes, and some types of expanded polystyrene used to transport cold goods and protect large items. But, the government will continue to research and look for possible alternatives. 

New Zealand is not the only country fighting against plastic waste, however. Other countries like England have also announced a ban on SUPs, including straws and stirrers by 2020. Australian states, New South Wales and Western Australia, have also joined the initiative to end their reliance on harmful items like microbeads and straws, as they cause significant environmental problems with improper disposal. 

With all these changes, supply chain managers need to be proactive and shift their supply chain to sustainable sourcing as soon as possible. Doing so will help your business get ahead, as more governments and countries implement bans on SUP items. 

Impacts of Plastic Ban on Your Supply Chain 

There is no definite data on plastic pollution in freshwater systems, but research estimates that over 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. The most significant contributors to this waste include plastic drinking bottles, food wrappers, and plastic grocery bags. 

Because of their versatility and affordable price, the use of SUPs continues unabated in most industries. However, while eliminating them will be difficult, the task is not impossible. 

Countless industries are being affected by governmental decisions to ban the use of plastics within their jurisdictions. Some of the industries include: 

  • Aerospace
  • Building and Construction
  • Automotive
  • Healthcare
  • E-commerce
  • Distribution Industry
  • Food Industry

All these industries will have their supply chain seriously affected since they rely heavily on using plastic. As such, finding the right plastic alternatives is the best way to minimize financial risks. 

Let’s take the food industry as an example to see how a SUP ban can significantly affect the supply chain. Whether you’re in the same industry or not, the implications will be quite similar.

Impact on the Food Industry 

The food and drink industry heavily uses single-use plastics for packaging and convenience. That means some major changes are on the horizon as businesses will have to adapt. Here are some ways a ban will impact the food industry:

  • Food Spoilage: Switching to non-SUP alternatives can bring risks such as food spoilage if the process is not handled correctly.
  • Sourcing Alternative Materials: Supply chain managers need to look for eco-friendly materials that are cost-effective and retain product quality during transport. For example, they can’t use or provide plastic bottles and utensils, takeaway containers, or any multi-polymer packaging materials anymore.
  • Loss of Resources: The elimination of SUPs and adaptation of alternatives may lead to a loss of capital and essential resources for food processing industries if not managed well. Essential resources for food processing industries include plastic bottles and polymer packaging. 

Nevertheless, supply chain managers can already take advantage of the many plastic alternatives available in the market. As campaigns against SUPs gain momentum and customers become more environmentally conscious , more options are available. Plus, adapting to sustainable sourcing can significantly result in higher profits for your business in the long run.

Here are some SUPs and their eco-friendly options to consider integrating into your supply chain: 

  • Plastic Straws: Plastic straws are so small, lightweight, and easily disposable that the wind can blow them into rivers or oceans. Once in our waterways, plastic straws threaten marine wildlife as they are a choking hazard and difficult to remove.

Some alternatives are wheat straws, bamboo straws, or pasta straws which are highly sustainable and easily composted after use. You can also opt for glass straws or stainless steel straws as they are durable and recyclable. 

Brands, like Starbucks, have even switched to lids that don’t require a straw at all. There are plenty of creative solutions out there to reduce plastic. 

  • Plastic Drink Stirrers: Cocktail stirrers are a fun accessory for drinks, but most are only used once and go straight to the trash. Coffee stirrers are no different—used once when making coffee and thrown away immediately after.

Instead, consider using spoons, bamboo or wood, or paper stirrers. All of these choices are recyclable, sustainable and can be used multiple times.

  • Coffee Cups: Over 70% of New Zealanders who consume coffee daily buy their drink while they’re out and use reusable cups. However, since coffee cups are made with plastic lining, most takeaway coffee cups are not recyclable and end up in landfills. 

Alternatives are bio paper cups and sugarcane coffee cups.Both are recyclable and compostable—which means they are not going to fill up the landfills.

These are just a few alternatives to SUPs that you can integrate into your supply chain to adapt to the policy changes made by governments.

Even if you’re not operating in New Zealand, your country might be next.

Shifting your supply chain to a more sustainable one now will bring more benefits than harm to your business, preventing you from experiencing any business disruptions in the near future. 

Protect Your Supply Chain Through Sustainable Sourcing

Integrating sustainable sourcing in your supply chain protects your business from the policy changes in all countries banning SUPs in their market. 

As New Zealand implements the ban on single-use plastics, supply chain managers should start looking for alternatives to source sustainably to ensure continued business operations. When you start looking for more eco-friendly alternatives to your production and manufacturing, you minimize the risk of inventory and financial disruptions. 

Are you ready to start sourcing sustainably? Our team in Good for Life has the resources to connect you to suppliers that are committed to removing SUPs in every step of the procurement process. 

Get in touch with us today and start sourcing sustainably!