Councils vote to wrap up plastic bags
A call from the Palmerston North City Council for central government to impose a levy on supermarket shopping bags has won widespread support from local authorities.
The issue was debated at the Local Government New Zealand annual conference in Rotorua on Sunday.
Eighty-ninety per cent of the 76 participating councils voted in favour of PNCC’s remit, which asks central government to impose the levy on supermarket bags at point of sale.
The remit was seconded by the Auckland Council.
‘‘It is really positive to receive so much support for the move and it is now up to central government to do something positive about it,’’ city mayor Grant Smith says.
The remit does not prescribe how much the levy should be.
‘‘Central government has Treasury to tell it how much it needs to be to have an effect . . . and what that money should be spent on.’’
Grant says New Zealand is out of step on the issue internationally.
‘‘One hundred and 70 different states and 30 different countries have either banned or placed a levy on single-use plastic bags.
‘‘Experience overseas suggests a levy will change behaviour. It prompts customers to think about whether they really need to use a plastic bag’’, he says.
‘‘It takes nearly 200,000 supermarket bags to make up a tonne of recycling . . . it sells for around $50 a tonne, minus the costs of
‘‘Experience overseas suggests a levy will change behaviour’’ Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith
processing and freight costs.’’
New Zealanders use more than 1.6 billion plastic bags in the home every year.
Last week The Packaging Forum offered a voluntary industry-led initiative to introduce recycling bins so that shoppers can take back used soft plastic bags to supermarkets and retail premises.
The project will initially trial at stores in Auckland before rolling out to other regions over three years. It aims to provide soft plastic recycling access for more than 70 per cent of New Zealanders.
‘‘Soft plastic bags are not currently collected for recycling by councils because they can contaminate the recycling process,’’ according to Lyn Mayes, the scheme’s project manager.
The new project proposes to take all soft plastic bags — basically anything made of plastic that can be scrunched into a ball.