Pe­ti­tion calls for ban on plas­tic bags

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - GED CANN

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.

PHOTO: GED CANN/STUFF

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.

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