Petition calls for ban on plastic bags
Action on plastic bags is still months away, associate environment minister Eugenie Sage says, as a 65,000 signature petition calling for a ban was presented to parliament.
The Greenpeace petition, launched in July last year, was accompanied by an open letter co-sponsored by the Jane Goodall Society, and a number of businesses and local authorities.
Sage said a similar petition in 2014 garnered only a quarter of the number of signatures, highlighting the growing concern.
The Government was looking at options, which would likely boil down to a levy or a ban.
‘‘Under the last government we were lagging behind, it was hands-off, there was strong political incentive not to tackle this issue,’’ Sage said.
Funding to the Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme, which allows customers to recycle soft plastics at most supermarkets and Warehouse stores, would continue.
Greenpeace plastics campaigner Elena Di Palma said Kiwis used 1.6 billion single-use bags every year, with each used for an average 12 minutes before they were thrown away.
‘‘We know that one in three turtles found dead on New Zealand beaches have swallowed plastics, and they suffer a really slow and painful death,’’ Palma said. ‘‘About 87 per cent of New Zealanders agree we have too much plastics in our lives, and they want to do something about it.’’
The Pure Tour has been travelling New Zealand since the start of February to raise awareness about the impact of plastics on the environment.
Co-ordinator Tina Ngata spoke to the 100-strong crowd supporting the petition handover, and said plastic bags were the ‘‘low hanging fruit’’ of the plastics prob- lem. ‘‘If they can’t ban this, they can’t convince us they are serious about reducing plastic pollution,’’ she said.
‘‘We found out just recently that there are more plastic pellets on our beaches than potentially many other places on earth. It’s a crime that we should have to live with this kind of pollution when we consider ourselves so progressive.’’
The waka Te Matau a Ma¯ui travelled down the North Island’s east coast earlier this month collecting the first evidence of plastics in Kiwi waters.
Captain Raihania Tipoki said it was only after you saw the plastics that the scale of the issue dawned on you.
‘‘We have to do something about this ... we are not the clean green nation we tell people we are,’’ he said.
The open letter was supported by com- panies, councils, non-governmental and community organisations, including Countdown, Bunnings, SPCA, Forest and Bird, World Wildlife Fund.
Kiwi actor Sam Neil and former Prime Minister Helen Clark also added their voices to the petition.
Helen Clark said New Zealand was well behind many countries that had already legislated against plastic bags.
‘‘The banning of single-use plastic bags from stores, communities, and the environment would be a big step in the right direction towards achieving the targets of sustainable development goals,’’ Clark said.
More than 40 countries have taken action to reduce their usage of single-use plastic bags. Using a plastic bag can even bring a jail sentence in Kenya.
The 65,000 signatures to the petition calling for a ban on plastic bags were passed over in a fabric bag yesterday at Parliament in Wellington.