Industry leaders focusing on reducing plastic by 2025

9 August 2018

Young Horticulturist Competition Partners look to young horticulturists for innovation

While the horticultural and related industries are making widespread gains when it comes to eliminating plastic waste such as packaging for produce and single-use plant pots in nursery production — the consensus is that innovation in the industry is also needed to get serious about reducing plastic.

Three of the competition’s partnering sponsors – Countdown, T&G and Fruitfed Supplies – are actively pursuing measures to reduce plastic waste and are calling attention to the fact that sustainability goes far beyond plastic bag recycling. Fourth sponsor AGMARDT have signalled they’ll consider funding applications for innovations in this area.

Speaking ahead of the innovation component of the 2018 Young Horticulturist Competition, Chair Elle Anderson said the feedback from stakeholders and sponsors of the competition is that there is a real need for ideas on how to get better at managing plastic, waste and recyclables along the whole supply chain.

“Competition sponsors are signalling that 2025 is going to be a big year for eliminating plastic packaging from fresh fruit and produce – as far as humanly possible – but to achieve it we’re going to need young talent with big bold ideas. This is definitely a focus for the competition this year,” said Anderson.

The issue is bigger than recycling – Countdown

Countdown's Head of Produce, Stephen Sexton said the issue of sustainable packaging is broader than end-of-life where the traditional focus has been on recycling, and is instead now focused on circular solutions and eliminating the need for unnecessary packaging in the first place.

“Plastic bags have been a really big issue for New Zealanders over the last year, but they’re really just a touch point for the wider issue that our customers are increasingly frustrated about, which is over-packaging and over-use of plastic.”

Sexton says Countdown has committed to having 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in all of its own brands by 2025, and that fresh produce is an area where consumers are expecting change.

“Kiwis are looking to us, the retailers, for leadership – and they’re also calling us out when they see bananas pre-packed in plastic bags, for example.  Yes, there are sometimes food safety issues to consider, but a simple change like removing bananas from plastic bags and replacing it with a small band took 15 tonnes of plastic out of circulation,” says Sexton.

“We need innovation to help us through some of these challenges. We need to be looking at issues such as how to transport certain products, or how to meet the need for convenience whilst also doing the right thing for the environment.”

AGMARDT happy to consider funding innovations

Malcolm Nitschke, General Manager of AGMARDT, said innovation around packaging is an important issue for New Zealand’s horticultural sector, and an opportunity to show global leadership. 

AGMARDT sponsor the Market Innovation Project, a defining element in the Young Horticulturist Competition, where finalists research and develop a business plan for a new and innovative horticultural product or concept.

“AGMARDT would be happy to consider funding innovations that will make a meaningful difference towards solving recycling and plastic packaging issues within the horticultural industry,” he said.

T&G Global poised for packaging changes

Another leader in the horticultural sector, T&G Global has signalled the start of their move away from plastic with the launch of new sustainable packaging towards the end of the year.

T&G Executive General Manager New Zealand, Andrew Keaney, said that a notable percentage of T&G Global’s produce is sold in New Zealand in loose form i.e. packaging-free.

“At T&G we place firm emphasis on reducing our environmental footprint. Our strategic direction for packaging is to reach 100 per cent renewable and 100 per cent recyclable packaging for our brands by 2025,” he said.

It’s a significant step – in line with Progressive’s 2025 deadline – because T&G Global is one of the largest growing, packing, shipping and marketing companies in New Zealand. The company sells produce in 60 countries worldwide, including well-known apple brands Envy™ and JAZZ™, handcrafted tomato brand Beekist® and recently launched, low carb Lotatoes™.

Fruitfed Supplies and PGG Wrightson focus on plastic management at the farm gate

Max Spence, National Manager, Fruitfed Supplies (part of PGG Wrightson Ltd) said the company is helping primary producers manage their use of plastic and other recyclables.

“We have recycling processes for cardboard and paper in all 97 PGG Wrightson and Fruitfed stores, as well as a number of sites offering drop-off points for empty triple rinsed plastic containers.”

As part of the initiative to help farmers clear more waste, Fruitfed Supplies and PGG Wrightson also provide logistical support to leading product stewardship programme Agrecovery, which collects and recycles more than 300 tonnes of plastic from farmers and growers every year.

About the competition

This year the best young men and women from the New Zealand horticulture industry go head-to-head in six sector competitions throughout the regions; in order to qualify and compete in the RNZIH Education Trust’s 2018 Young Horticulturist Competition.

The finalists will be drawn from the winners of six horticultural sector competitions:

  • Horticulture NZ (fruit and vegetable sectors)
  • NZPPI - New Zealand Plant Producers Inc.
  • NZ Winegrowers
  • Amenity Horticulture supported by NZRA - New Zealand Recreational Association
  • NZ Flower Growers Inc / FLONZI
  • Registered Master Landscapers New Zealand

The finalists compete for a prize pool of over $55,000 including:

  • A $7,500 travel and accommodation package for the winner
  • A $5,500 Massey University study scholarship for the runner-up
  • The AGMARDT Market Innovation Project first prize of $5,000
  • The T&G Practical Components travel scholarship valued at $3,500

The Young Horticulturist Competition is made possible through the generous support of competition partners AGMARDT, T&G, Fruitfed Supplies and Countdown.

Supporters of the competition are Bayer CropScience, Horticentre Trust, Primary ITO, Trillian Trust and The New Zealand Institute of Agricultural & Horticultural Science (NZIAHS) plus affiliated supporters, friends, volunteers and industry specialists who give their time.

To check out the full list of supporters.

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Annabel Bulk
Young Horticulturist of the Year 2018

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