Guest post: Love meat, not plastic

Kit Arkwright
Kit Arkwright.

It’s Plastic Free July – did you know? For those that don’t, this global movement helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities, writes Kit Arkwright from New Zealand’s domestic meat promotion body.

Plastic is an issue close to many Kiwi’s hearts. The recent ‘Better Futures’ study by Colmar Brunton ranks plastic waste as the number one issue for New Zealanders. It featured above issues like the cost of living, protection of children and suicide rates. To say now is the time for the meat industry to take a long, hard look at how it reduces its impact on plastic waste is an understatement.

The issue of plastic packaging for meat is not a simple situation. Plastic packaging offers the most effective solution to ensuring meat has a viable shelf-life and it also offers a safe option for ensuring the high standards of food safety we have come to expect as a given here in New Zealand.

But does shelf-life and food safety mean that we still can’t be doing more to reduce the amount of plastic waste we produce?

One example of a retail solution to plastic packing, here in New Zealand, is for customers to bring their own containers to take their meat away. We have already seen both Foodstuffs and Countdown offer this service at their stores.

However, this does present food safety liabilities. One step the Mangawhai Meat Shop has taken is to invest in a plastic container exchange. Forward-thinking shop owner Dan Klink has invested in plastic containers which his customers can use for a $5 deposit and swap for a clean container when they are next in store. This not only reduces his store’s plastic waste, but ensures he can provide a sterile container for his customers.

Another highly commendable move made by Foodstuffs and Countdown is to sign up to the New Zealand plastic packaging declaration – committing to using 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in their New Zealand operations by 2025 or earlier.

Consumer education is also essential to shifting the dial on this issue. I admit that until recently I didn’t know really know what plastic could and could not… actually let’s be honest, I hadn’t taken the time to research… be recycled. In Australia, they have created a recycling label which is placed on packaging and gives clear instructions on what can be done with each part of the packaging. It’s simple, evidence-based and would help lazy people like me to do the correct thing with my waste.

This also applies to education around food waste. New Zealanders throw away 157,389 tonnes of food a year, worth about $1.17 billion each year. That amount of food could feed the population of Dunedin for nearly three years!

But these improvements are just the start on what we can be doing as an industry. Beef + Lamb New Zealand Inc will be taking an active leadership role in the industry here in New Zealand to reduce the plastic waste it creates throughout the supply chain. Consumers want solutions and we run the risk of consumers voting with their wallets if we don’t have them.

Kit Arkwright is marketing manager for Beef + Lamb NZ Inc, the red meat sector’s domestic promotion body based in Auckland. This Guest Post has been provided by B+LNZ, as part of its MeatExportNZ supporter package.

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