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PhD candidate Pham Van Hau says the ban on single-use packaging is not going far enough.

The ban on single-use packaging in Aotearoa New Zealand is not going far enough to prevent waste from ending up in landfills and the environment, one PhD candidate says.

Pham Van Hau, who is doing his PhD through the Department of Marketing, says consumers are aware of issues regarding packaging and waste when shopping, but there are several things that lead to them purchasing items wrapped in non-recyclable materials.

Pham is researching consumer behaviour regarding sustainable choices in packaging.

Retail environments are often fast-paced and designed to cater to shoppers with not much time or money to spare, he says.

“Due to the demands of modern life, for example, I am busy.”

This can result in shoppers being “heavily influenced” by price and convenience and struggling to fathom the more long-term costs associated with single-use packaging.

Much of it ends up in landfills or the ocean and has a negative impact on humans and other creatures, and educating consumers to take action on their own can take years as it requires them to break a habit, he says.

“That’s why the problem of single-use packaging is not just about changing the consumer, it’s about changing society.”

Instead of putting pressure on consumers to make the right choice, the greater packaging production system needs to change to make recyclable packaging and products with less waste the norm, improving its availability, he says.

“In New Zealand, the government banned single-use packaging plastic as of July 2023. I think this is going to change consumer behaviour quite a lot, but the ban is not enough.”

“The problem of single-use packaging is much bigger than just one agent - the consumer. It includes the government, businesses, enterprises and NGOs.”

Investing in innovation around single-use packaging may be expensive initially, but will be worth it in the long-term, he says, and prices for consumers would drop over time. There is also merit in consumers bringing their own containers and reusable packaging.

Pham has three years’ experience working for an NGO, working for a packaging company since doing his bachelor’s in economics and has also worked in an area that focused on green consumption. He started his PhD in marketing about nine months ago.

Pham says is his grateful for the assistance he has received from his supervisors Professor Maree Thyne, Associate Professor Kirsten Robertson and Dr Robert Hamlin, of the Department of Marketing, Otago Business School.

-Kōrero by internal communications adviser, Koren Allpress

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