As well as packaging manufacturers, the accord has the support of 80 per cent of supermarkets, major brand owners and retailers.
"New Zealanders throw away about 83kg each of used packaging a year," says Hobbs. "Accord parties recognise something can be done to reduce this. This is a great example of industry and government collaborating to address issues of concern," she states.
Between 1994 and 2002, each New Zealander consumed an average of 140kg of packaging per year. During this time, an increasing amount of packaging was recovered each year.
An average 83kg of packaging went to landfill between 1994 and 2002 per person per year - the figure referred-to by the minister. By weight, New Zealanders send more paper packaging to landfill than they do plastics, glass, steel and aluminium packaging.
Part of a general drive towards sustainable development, the accord is a voluntary industry and government initiative to make more sustainable use of packaging. It takes over from the 1996 Accord on a Strategy to Minimise Packaging Waste. The new accord will run for five years, from 2004 to 2009.
More than 200 organisations have made a commitment to the accord, the main parties being the Minister for the Environment on behalf of the central government, the Packaging Council of New Zealand on behalf of brand owners, retailers/importers, and packaging manufacturers, Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), Recycling Operators of New Zealand (RONZ), and the New Zealand people.
Each party to the accord and the six packaging sector groups have prepared sector action plans which state what they intend to do over the next five years to improve the sustainability of packaging. Sector action plans include joint and sector targets - measurable goals to be achieved in the five-year life of the accord.
Joint national targets include recovering a specified percentage of the five main packaging materials - paper, plastic, aluminium, steel and glass - by weight of consumption. Recovery targets for 2008 are 65 per cent of aluminium; 55 per cent of glass; 70 per cent of paper; 43 per cent of steel; and 23 per cent of plastic. Alongside this, brand owners and retailers are working to reduce the number of plastic bags used at supermarket checkouts.
Measurement of the effectiveness of the accord will be the responsibility of local government, which will monitor the volume of packaging ending up at landfills.
Local Government New Zealand is an accord partner and will co-ordinate the local government sector plan to help implement the accord. Its president, Basil Morrison, says, "Councils already have a major role in recycling, but the accord will enable us to work more closely with manufacturers and recyclers to help develop markets for recovered packaging material. The plan also calls for all councils to have adequate recycling provisions in their waste management plans and to work to meet agreed recycling targets."
Under the principle of "extended producer responsibility", the originators of packaging in New Zealand will take responsibility for its complete lifecycle from manufacture to use, to recycling and eventual disposal, as in many European countries.
The accord will seek a reduction in materials used and a preference for recycled rather than virgin materials as brand owners and their packaging partners develop new packaging.
They are also encouraged to monitor and improve production efficiency and explore opportunities for recycling of packaging into other products after it has fulfilled its original purpose.
Also involved in this lifecycle are manufacturers of packaging, councils and businesses that collect used packaging material for recycling, and consumers who buy and throw away packaging.
The goal is for everyone to waste less and be more efficient when making, using and recovering packaging materials.
Whilst the government in Wellington believes all parties are strongly committed to the accord, it has stated that if the voluntary approach "does not encourage product stewardship and provide sufficient improvements in reducing packaging waste per New Zealander, Government will consider doing so by regulation".