Mayors call for plastic bag tax
Pressure is mounting on central government to impose a plastic bag levy as mayors from three of the country’s biggest cities launched a campaign calling for support on a mandatory charge on single-use bags.
An open letter, signed by the mayors of Dunedin, Auckland, and Wellington, echoed Wellington Mayor Justin Lester’s previous request that government impose a levy, or step aside and allow local government to do it.
‘‘When the UK brought in just a 5p levy in 2015, they’ve seen an 86 per cent decrease in the number of plastic bags going to landfills. This has been proven to work overseas,’’ Lester said.
Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule said a levy had strong support from the sector, with a poll from 2015 showing 89 per cent of councils were in support.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said Kiwis had to stop the flow of hundreds of millions of nonbiodegradable plastic bags dumped in landfill every year, after figures revealed Auckland dumped 17,000 tonnes of soft plastics last year alone.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said residents were taking what action they could, but central government action was needed.
‘‘The truth is they [plastic bags] need to be stopped at the source,’’ Cull said.
‘‘The environmental costs of dealing with plastic bags are ultimately borne by ratepayers. A levy would not only help to reduce the problem at source, but levy funding could be returned to councils for them to spend on further waste minimisation and environmental clean-up measures.’’
Wellington City Council Waste operations manager Adrian Mitchell knows only too well the cost born on ratepayers, with $20,000 spent on fencing to catch bags blown out of the city’s southern landfill last year, and another $18,000 budgeted for more fencing this year.
Recently, Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson announced funding for the first independent national litter survey under the Keep New Zealand Beautiful scheme.
The scheme would replace the National Litter Survey commissioned by the Packaging Forum, figures from which Environment Minister Nick Smith had previously quoted as justification for not imposing a levy.
Auckland dumped 17,000 tonnes of soft plastics last year.