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Your guide to compostable sushi packaging

More single-use plastic bans and your guide to compostable sushi packaging.

Much of the typical sushi packaging was banned last October — PVC, polystyrene, and expanded polystyrene food trays and containers, your number 3 and 6 plastics, as the government phases out more hard-to-recycle plastics. Here we look at what single-use plastic items were banned last October, compostable packaging alternatives and discuss why the government needs to prioritise a circular economy.

Tranche 1 plastic ban October 2022

Is your business still using numbers 3 and 6 plastics? You can read more about the plastic bans on the Ministry for the Environment website.

You can be fined up to $100,000 for using these items. 

— Single-use plastic drink stirrers

— Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pre-formed food trays and containers*

— Polystyrene takeaway packaging for food and beverages

- Expanded polystyrene food and retail beverage packaging (such as foam takeaway containers or some instant noodle cups)

READ: Preparing your business for the single-use plastics phase-out

Are you using polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pre-formed, rigid food trays and containers?

Polyvinyl chloride contains phthalates and heavy metals that release toxic, chlorine-based chemicals during production, use, and disposal that accumulate in our environment, food chain and bodies. PVC also creates dioxins when it burns—also highly toxic. Any plastic can leach, depending on conditions—microwaving, for example, and dioxins are absorbed by fat tissue. Known health issues include cancer, immune system damage, and hormone disruption.

Swap with:

— Sugarcane Tray (SP-T1)

— Bamboo Food Box Range (LB-700, 850, 1100 + LBL-B)

— Kraft Tray Range (EBB - T1, T2, T3)

— Kraft Snack Box & Burger Box (EBB-SB, EBB-BB)

    Image of eco-friendly disposable sushi packaging. A sugar cane compostable tray.

    Are you using polystyrene (PS) takeaway food and beverage packaging?

    Polystyrene plastic is made from petrochemicals. As early as the 1980s, the EPA demonstrated that styrene—the molecular building block of all polystyrene was present in 100% of the human fat samples collected across the continental United States. Styrene is considered a possible human carcinogen by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Polystyrene is often used for plates, cups, clamshell food containers and trays.

    Swap with:

    — Sugarcane Tray (SP-T1)

    — Sugarcane Bowls (SP-24,32-N)

    — EcoBowl Range (EBC-4,8,12,16SW)

      Are you using expanded polystyrene (EPS) food and beverage packaging?

      Polystyrene’s precursor—expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam is made from petrochemicals which contain hazardous ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons. There is 1970s research demonstrating the toxicity of EPS foam styrene monomers on marine life. Untold numbers of animals die annually by ingesting polystyrene—and other plastics, which break down into microplastics which eventually make their way into our food chain. The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer considers foamed polystyrene a possible human carcinogen. Expanded polystyrene is often used for plates, cups, clamshell food containers, and trays.

      Swap with:

      — Sugarcane Tray (SP-T1)

      — Sugarcane Bowls (SP-24,32-N)

      — EcoBowl Range (EBC-4,8,12,16SW)

        READ: Meadowbank Primary opts for compostable sushi packaging over plastic

        Image of plastic products banned in tranche 1, October 2022.

        Swapping plastic for plastic is not the solution

        Cited as ‘easier-to-recycle’, plastics 1, 2 and 5 are currently recommended alternatives to replace PVC and polystyrene for food takeaway packaging. According to Waste Management landfill expert, Timothy Brake recycling plastic is a waste delay. As Brake discussed in this interview with Newsroom — “there are certain things that plastic is good for—that we need it for and things that shouldn't be used for, like single-use packaging”. Brake explained that one tonne of polyethylene would eventually produce 3.14 tonnes of CO2, describing plastic as a “disaster in terms of climate change.”

        WATCH: Waiheke Resources Trust Full-Circle Composting 

        Why polyethylene terephthalate (PET) - number 1 plastic is not an ideal alternative

        Antimony is a semi-metal used in manufacturing plastic — it is used in PET manufacturing and can be toxic in high doses. In 2008, scientists at Arizona State University researching the impacts of heat on antimony release in PET bottles found that while PET is generally considered ‘safe’ in mild 21-degree weather, at hotter temperatures, it took far less time for bottled water to become contaminated. 

        And at higher temperatures, like those of a car on a hot summer’s day, in experiments, it took 38 days for water bottles heated to these temperatures to show levels of antimony that exceeded safety recommendations. Since heat helps break down chemical bonds in plastics, those chemicals will migrate into the beverages or food they contain. PET plastics are unsuitable for reuse and must be kept out of heat and sun.

        We need to discuss the feasibility of recycling

        Current recommendations promoting numbers 1, 2 and 5 plastics in place of PVC, polystyrene and expanded polystyrene plastics are perplexing. Certified compostable plastic products leave behind a single organic material called humus that can be used to grow food and yet is dismissed as a suitable alternative to plastic single-use packaging.

        Compostable products were designed to tackle the vast amounts of plastic packaging used in takeaway food deliveries, minimising the environmental impact of convenience culture. A circular approach is critical in alleviating pressure on city landfills and Earth in general — we will not reduce waste by encouraging businesses to use number 1 and 2 plastics. 

        Does your business need to find alternatives to plastic takeaway packaging?

        Email us at to discuss what products will best suit your food offering, space and service.