Sustainable packaging

100% committed to being 100% recyclable

At NZ Post we’re committed to being a leader in sustainability. We’re aware of our impact on the world around us and are working hard to find solutions, although it’s not always easy, especially when it comes to packaging. But we’ve committed to using 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging by 2025.

Sustainable packaging

100% committed to being 100% recyclable

At NZ Post we’re committed to being a leader in sustainability. We’re aware of our impact on the world around us and are working hard to find solutions, although it’s not always easy, especially when it comes to packaging. But we’ve committed to using 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging by 2025.

We know our customers have been asking for a better alternative to virgin plastic bags for a while, so we wanted to ensure that we made the right choice for us, the environment, and our customers. That’s why we worked hard alongside thinkstep-anz to carry out a full Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of various packaging options.

The results of our LCA study showed a NZ-made 80% recycled plastic LDPE option was the best choice available for us right now.* Check out our webinar, or download the full Life Cycle Assessment report (PDF - 1.6MB)

* Excluding size XL mailers & bubble mailers, where a 50% recycled plastic LDPE mailer and a 30% recycled plastic LDPE mailer are required (respectively) for additional durability and protection of large or fragile items.

What did the study tell us?

Our chosen mailer has the lowest carbon footprint of all options considered in the LCA report, and comes with some impressive numbers:

  • 2.6 times lower carbon footprint than our existing virgin plastic packaging
  • 191,000 kg CO2e-eq saved annually (approximately)
  • That's 824 flights - 191,000kg CO2e-eq is equivalent to a person taking 824 return flights from Auckland to Wellington
  • Or 258 car trips from Cape Reinga to Bluff and back

What mailers did we compare?

As part of this Life Cycle Assessment we compared a range of materials which included compostable mailers, paper mailers, and recycled plastic mailers.

  • Virgin LDPE mailer (existing): Used as baseline in all carbon footprint assessments
  • NZ-made recycled LDPE mailer: 35%^ of carbon footprint compared to existing option (Chosen option)
  • China-made recycled LDPE mailer: 58%^ of carbon footprint compared to existing option
  • Home-compostable mailer: 250%^ of carbon footprint compared to existing option
  • Paper mailer: 600%^ of carbon footprint compared to existing option

^ Based on best disposal option for each mailer.

An end-to-end evaluation

We carried out a ‘cradle to grave’ study that covers the production of raw materials, manufacture of the mailer, transport to NZ Post and through our network to the final customer, and finally end-of-life.

Our testing variables

Carbon footprint was the primary indicator for our new choice of mailer, but we also looked at the impact using many other indicators across:

Human toxicity Acidification Eutrophication Water scarcity
Energy use: Total and non-renewable Photochemical ozone formation potential (POFP): AKA Summer smog Resource depletion: Minerals & metals and fossil fuels Waste: Material circularity indicator, hazardous waste disposal and non-hazardous waste disposal

The NZ-made recycled LDPE Mailer has the lowest environmental footprint of all the mailers considered, having performed the best in 11 out of the 14 indicators. It can also be recycled through the Soft Plastic Recycling Programme. That’s how we know we made the right choice.

What didn’t we include in our LCA report?

With so many packaging options available to us, we knew our Life Cycle Assessment had to ensure we were evaluating the best possible options for both you and the environment. It’s because of this that we didn’t investigate reusable bags, due to their high cost and the logistical difficulties in returning them after use. The LCA study intended to understand the impacts of single-use packaging and the best available options, until such time as developments with reusable bags make them more feasible for widespread us.

We also didn’t include a bio-based low-density polyethylene (bioplastic) mailer in the study, because although they can have a negative carbon footprint, the actual carbon footprint can still vary drastically depending on their supply chain. Bioplastics can also score poorly on other environmental factors such as Eutrophication, and while they score well during production, they have a similar end-of-life impact in that they do not decompose.

In addition, by using rLDPE (the material used in our chosen NZ-made 80% recycled plastic LDPE packaging) we are helping create a circular economy by using plastics that would otherwise have gone to landfill.

The bigger picture

Our core domestic postage included bag range in store has already transitioned to 80% recycled plastic and we’re currently rolling out this 80% recycled plastic packaging to our business customers too. See our postage included bag range.

For our business customers, our DL size Trackpak (product code: CPOLDL) is now available to order as part of the first phase of transition; there’s no change to the price or current appearance of these Trackpaks.

The range is also fully recyclable via soft plastic collection schemes, you can drop them into any of the Love NZ soft plastics recycling bins at supermarkets and other participating stores. For more information about soft plastic recycling go to www.recycling.kiwi.nz.

Our XL packaging & bubble packaging require a little more durability to protect your large and fragile items so, a 50% recycled plastic LDPE mailer and a 30% recycled plastic LDPE mailer are required (respectively).

While the results of the LCA show that a recycled plastic would be better, they are currently not an option for our entire packaging range, so we’re continuing to work with our suppliers to find the most sustainable options for all our packaging types. 

Paper padded bags

Our domestic postage included paper padded bags are made from 100% recycled paper, are 100% recyclable and just as tough and water resistant as the plastic bubble bags (for normal packaging use). They can be recycled through local kerbside collection or at recycling points.

Boxes

We have a great range of environmentally friendly boxes available for customers in all stores nationwide, made from recycled content and 100% recyclable.

These boxes use Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified materials and water based inks. All our boxes are 100% recyclable and can be recycled through local kerbside collection or at recycling points. This flyer (PDF - 1.4MB) has more information on the features of our box range. Visit our online shop to see the full range of boxes available.

Using your own packaging to send with us

We want to make it as easy as possible for our customers to be kind to the environment, while we continue our work exploring permanent, long-term sustainable packaging. That’s why we offer customers the option to use their own packaging when sending both domestically and internationally with us. You can find more about this here.

Our commitment is for the long term

We have signed the NZ packaging declaration (PDF - 219KB) and are committed to using 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 or earlier. We’ll be continuing to assess our long-term packaging solutions and will share progress as we go.

To help guide our work and assess the most sustainable options we have developed 11 sustainable packaging principles (PDF - 359KB).

We’re on a journey and our new packaging is a step in the right direction. That’s how we’re delivering for good.

The new packaging option also needed to perform well in their intended purpose - functional performance and cost. We know that customers choose both the plastic courier bags, flat paper bags and padded paper bags for sending items. Therefore, all of these options were included for comparison.  

This is just one step of many to come in the right direction. We’re continuing to work with our partners to find the most sustainable solution for all our packaging options and meet our 2025 commitment. 

Our next piece of research will be around continuing to develop re-usable packaging and will include pilots and research & development. We’ll be working with our partners on how best to approach this next phase. 

We have a range of packaging designed to meet different needs and we’re continuing to work with our suppliers to find the most sustainable solution for all our packaging options to meet our 2025 commitment.  

For us they are not currently the right option. There are several challenges including: 

  • Most commercial composters in NZ will not accept soft compostable material such as bags, severely limiting appropriate disposal options available to end receivers. 
  • Compostable adhesives and labels are not yet commonly used so the end user will need to remove contaminants before home composting. 
  • There is a lack of agreed compostable product standards in NZ. 
  • They don’t easily break down in marine environments and if they end up in landfill they can create Methane which is a far more potent gas than carbon dioxide. 

In addition to this, the LCA found that they have at 2.5 times the carbon footprint of a virgin plastic bag (existing mailer) and didn’t score as well across other environmental indicators. We are aware there are many types of compostable mailers in the market manufactured from a variety of raw materials. We are monitoring industry developments and will assess these options as we go.