Mayor lead­ing by ex­am­ple

Northern Outlook - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA DANGERFIELD

Waimakariri Mayor David Ay­ers has joined the list of city and district may­ors through­out the coun­try call­ing for Cen­tral Govern­ment to im­pose a manda­tory levy on plas­tic su­per­mar­ket shop­ping bags.

A levy on the bags, known as sin­gle-use plas­tic bags, is sup­ported by more than 90 per cent of New Zealand’s may­ors, and pub­lic opin­ion also seems to be mov­ing, al­beit cau­tiously, in that di­rec­tion.

While the bags can be reused (think dog poo, bin liner or wet clothes) as well as re­cy­cled, vast num­bers of the 1.6 bil­lion bags used na­tion­wide still end up in the en­vi­ron­ment.

Ay­ers said plas­tic bags needed to be­come a thing of the past. There had been no op­po­si­tion at the Lo­cal Govern­ment New Zealand con­fer­ence to ask­ing for the levy, he said.

‘‘We’re find­ing a greater aware­ness around sustainability and the is­sues faced with sin­gleuse plas­tic bags. They get used for a very short pe­riod, and then end up in the land­fill, or worse.

‘‘There are far bet­ter al­ter­na­tives. Sign­ing the pe­ti­tion was an easy de­ci­sion.’’

Ay­ers re­ferred to a levy in the UK which re­duced plas­tic bag us­age by 85 per cent within six months, prov­ing how ef­fec­tive such a move could be.

He was old enough to re­mem­ber the good old days be­fore ev­ery­thing was cov­ered in plas­tic, when one bought bread wrapped in pa­per, and boldly put rub­bish in an un­lined bin.

But it was over­seas travel which re­ally got him ap­pre­ci­at­ing the im­pact of plas­tic on the global en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘I’ve been to Cam­bo­dia and seen it sur­rounded by a sea of plas­tic. In fact, our plas­tic bot­tle con­sump­tion is now one mil­lion ev­ery minute.

‘‘So get­ting rid of su­per­mar­ket bags is a good first step — it’s rel­a­tively easy to keep a sup­ply of re­us­able bags.’’

Coun­cil’s solid waste as­set man­ager Kitty Waghorn said the best so­lu­tion would be for the govern­ment to ban the bags.

Waghorn said while the bags only made up around 1.3 per cent of the kerb­side re­cy­cling col­lec­tion in the Waimakariri, this still equated to 50.12 tonnes two years ago and in­creased to 57.47 tonnes last year.

On top of the 57 tonnes which were re­cy­cled, there was a ‘‘darn sight more’’ soft plas­tic, in­clud­ing shop­ping bags, end­ing up in the land­fill.

That fig­ure was closer to 400 tonnes an­nu­ally, she said.

‘‘A levy is part of the so­lu­tion to the prob­lem but the real so­lu­tion would be to stop mak­ing them al­to­gether.

‘‘Re­duc­ing waste at source is what we’d pre­fer to see, rather than us hav­ing to ex­pend en­ergy and money on col­lec­tion and re­cy­cling even more ma­te­ri­als.’’

The coun­cil is also sup­port­ing lo­cal ini­tia­tives to re­duce plas­tic, in­clud­ing Plas­tic Straw Free Ran­giora, and Boomerang Bags.

Last month Kenya be­came the lat­est coun­try to join more than 40 oth­ers that have banned, partly banned or taxed sin­gle-use plas­tic bags, in­clud­ing China, France, Rwanda, and Italy.

A Neigh­bourly poll showed less than one third of the 250 re­spon­dents were happy with the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, while 57.6 per cent thought the bags should be banned. A fur­ther 12.8 per cent were in favour of a levy.

EMMA DANGERFIELD/STUFF

Waimakariri Mayor David Ay­ers is com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing plas­tic bag waste in the district.

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