Our Seas Our Future supports the proposed ban on single-use plastic bags, and have welcomed the opportunity to comment on the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Free Future Consultation.
OSOF acknowledges the need to address and significantly reduce the amount of plastics that ultimately end up in and around our marine environments, whether we intend them to or not. Single-use plastics are one of the big contributors to the waste that ends up in our oceans.
OSOF has been active in advocating for the phase-out of single-use plastic bags since our ‘Phase-out plastic bags petition’ was presented to the House of Representatives in 2014. The Local Government and Environment Select Committee considered our 2014 petition, signed by over 16,000 people, to have plastic bags listed as a priority item under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008. The intention of our 2014 petition was to advocate for the phasing out single-use plastic bag use in New Zealand by imposing a ban on single-use plastic bags, or, introducing consistent charges for single-use plastic bags with the goal of moving towards a total ban.
The Ministry advised against our 2014 petition, concluding that a ban would be impractical as plastic bags are versatile and repurposed for transporting food products or collecting household waste. It also was pointed out that single-use plastic bags only make up a small percentage of landfill.
It is encouraging to see that the Ministry’s view on single-use plastic bags has since changed, with continued campaigning by a growing community of individuals, groups, and organisations.
OSOF Trustee, Noel Jhinku said he would prefer this opportunity to phase-out single-use plastic bags to be extended to include a wider range of single-use plastic products used by the hospitality and retail industry, such as plastic straws, plastic cutlery, and plastic takeaway containers, including rubbish bags.
“Plastic bags of all thicknesses should be considered for phase-out, rather than the limitations considered in the consultation. Alternatives to plastic bags already exist, and cost-effective alternatives are becoming more readily available.”
Whilst the current proposed ban is a commendable move, OSOF ask that further steps are taken to ensure our marine environments are protected from plastic pollution. This opportunity to tackle the environmental problems associated with single-use plastics should be used to create a more robust phase-out that includes a wider range of single-use plastic products, making it a more practical initiative.
1) Read our 2018 submission on the Waste Free Future Consultation.
2) Read the Report of the Local Government and Environment Committee on our 2014 petition.