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