Labour wants to see the end of single-use plastics and is promising a ban on straws, cutlery, cotton buds and fruit stickers by 2025 if re-elected.
Other single-use plastics which currently don't have an alternative will be the focus of a $50 million research fund.
The Labour Party is also promising to standardise kerbside recycling across the country as part of its waste policy.
It was unveiled by Prime Minister and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and Environment Minister David Parker at the Sustainable Coastlines charity in Auckland this morning.
Ardern said 61 per cent of the waste found on our beaches was plastic and Sustainable Coastlines picked up 23,200 plastic straws from Auckland beaches alone.
She has previously made banning single-use plastics a "personal priority".
"Getting rid of plastics is one of the main topics children write to me about, so this policy is about ensuring we uphold our clean green image, reduce waste in our environment and create a future our children can be proud of," Ardern said.
The single-use plastics ban could be brought in sooner than 2025 for some items which already have non-plastic replacements, like produce bags, cutlery and straws - though there would be an exemption for people with disabilities.
Ardern said the ban built on the plastic bag ban and promised there would be adequate lead-in time.
"Businesses were given ample notice to phase out plastic bag use and that went seamlessly.
"Many business are already using plastic alternatives and it's likely that by signalling these changes we will see more businesses making the shift," Ardern said.
Some of the current alternatives include:
• PVC and polystyrene packaging – cardboard or type 1 and 2 plastic packaging, or
• Straws – paper straws, reusable straws, or no straw.
• Drink stirrers – wooden drink stirrers or reusable spoons.
• Tableware, cups and cutlery – paper or wood-based products or reusable items.
• Produce bags – reusable bags, no bag.
• Produce stickers – compostable produce stickers, signs, stamps.
• Cotton buds – paper cotton buds.
As well, Labour would establish a $50 million fund to help New Zealand businesses develop and manufacture non-plastic alternatives, particularly for single-use and hard-to-recycle products.
The Plastics Innovation Fund would provide grants and loans to researchers or companies who can rethink their plastic products.
It was one of the recommendations included in the Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand report released by the Prime Minister's chief science adviser, Professor Juliet Gerrard.
Parker said Labour would also "take steps" to see more recycling done locally which would create jobs and reduce the amount of rubbish sent overseas.
That would build on the $124 million already committed to waste infrastructure by the Government, he said.
"Work has begun on six priority 'product stewardship schemes' where a producer or seller of a product takes responsibility for reducing the environmental impact of their products.
"Those priorities are plastic packaging, tyres, eWaste, agrichemicals and their containers, refrigerants, and farm plastics.
"We expect to be able to roll out the regulations for these schemes from next year. Then Labour will look for further products we can better manage through mandatory product stewardship schemes.
"We will also continue work on a deposit return scheme for drink containers, as a step towards reducing the volume of single-use containers."
The priorities for reducing waste would include:
• Additional optical and mechanical sorters to improve the efficiency of our recycling
• Processing facilities for products we don't currently recycle onshore, including
plastics and construction and demolition waste.
• Gas capture technology to reduce the emissions from our waste.
• Diverting food waste from landfill.
• Improving onshore fibre recycling capacity.
• Establishing the Plastics Innovation Fund to develop alternatives for plastics,
particularly for single-use and hard to recycle plastic products.
• Supporting more product stewardship schemes.
It would also look to standardise kerbside collection of recyclable materials, as recommended in a report by the Ministry for the Environment and WasteMINZ, by:
• Collecting plastics 1, 2, and 5, metal, glass, cardboard and paper throughout the
• Incentivising the collection of food waste.
• Collecting glass separately to other recycling.
• Providing best practice guidance to councils.
Labour's waste plan would be paid for from the waste levy that is already in place which is expected to generate $276 million per year by 2024. Half of it would be ring-fenced for councils to help with the costs of managing waste.
The other half would go to initiatives that promote or achieve waste minimisation, including the $50 million Plastics Innovation Fund.
National leader Judith Collins said supermarkets were phasing out plastics in cotton buds already.
"Poor old Labour ... playing catch up with the private sector," Collins tweeted.
Collins told media that New Zealanders were doing their best and it was "important to particularly think about small businesses and how hard it is for them to be able to constantly adjust and particularly if they've got stock on hand".
"This just another basically nice to have. People are trying to do their best but the main thing is the fact that people lose their jobs every day and I think they are going to more concerned about that, frankly."
Act leader David Seymour said Labour's policy was "nothing more than virtue signalling that will inconvenience New Zealanders.
"The Government's environmental policies have been counterproductive and will actually hurt the planet.
"It banned plastic bags, but the alternatives are worse. It banned oil and gas exploration, and now we're importing Indonesian coal. The Zero Carbon Act will push emissions overseas.
"What we need is better waste management. The Government's political response to environmental issues is if in doubt, regulate. However, the solutions to many of our environmental problems are innovation."