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Plastic Free New Zealand™

Plastic Free New Zealand™ is a brand highlighting the effect of plastics and other anthropogenic materials on our environment, while advocating for more for environmentally friendly solutions.

The goal of this brand and campaign is to raise public awareness in Aotearoa/New Zealand about the threats to marine life, and human health, posed by countless tonnes of plastics (and other materials) that pollute the world’s oceans.

Why Plastic Free New Zealand?

Plastic Free New Zealand is about raising public awareness about the potential threats to marine ecosystems and human health posed by millions of metric tons of plastics that pollute the world’s ocean. Pollution is one of the biggest issues facing our oceans and coasts. An estimated 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic entered the oceans in 2010 from people living within 50 kilometres of the coast in 192 countries.

Plastic pollution is a growing problem; everyday it chokes our waterways, damages marine ecosystems, and becomes part of the marine food chain. All the plastics that end up in our waterways eventually break up into smaller and smaller pieces. Some of it floats, some of it sinks, but none of it ever disappears. Plastic continues to accumulate and circulate in our environment where marine animals can mistake it for food that can cause starvation, dehydration, internal damage or even death. When this growing plastic pollution finds its way into our marine food chain, it can eventually affect human health when we eat seafood.

The presence of marine plastics in ocean waters has significantly jeopardised the survival of marine wildlife and protected species, with deaths due to ingestion, asphyxiation, and starvation due to plastic debris well-documented and commonplace. Seabirds, whales, fish and other marine species suffer injuries, infections, and chronic impairments from the presence of plastic pollutants in their habitats. In addition, plastics can severely harm the balance of natural ecosystems and traditional seafood resources by enabling the spread of toxic organisms, and bacteria. Evidence on marine debris indicates that plastics make-up most of the marine litter worldwide.

The potential harms of microplastics on our marine environments are a focus of current research. Marine organisms at the base of the food chain including plankton and fish larvae ingest microplastics, and filter-feeding animals which humans eat, including oysters and scallops, ingest the particles as they filter seawater. Several studies have found that zooplankton, which are among the smallest marine organisms, grow more slowly and reproduce less successfully in the presence of microplastics. Marine scientists are concerned about the ramifications of high plastic concentrations in our oceans, given risks to zooplankton populations and marine food webs in effect: “If we knock out something like zooplankton, the base of our marine food web, we’d be more worried about impacts on fish stocks and the ability to feed the world’s population.”

The consumption of plastics may present a range of risks to both marine animals and humans given the toxic nature of the chemicals used in their manufacturing, among them phthalates and bisphenol A.

You can help reduce the amount of plastics from ending up in our environment. It is as easy as reducing your consumption of plastic in everyday life, and encouraging others to do the same.

New Zealand’s current policy/legislation

Microbead ban – In 2018 it became illegal to produce or sell some products which contain microbeads. There are set criteria around which microbeads are and are not allowed such as in scrubs and exfoliators but glitter for craft purposes and cosmetics is excluded from the ban.

Plastic bag ban – The government banned single-use shopping bags that fell under the criteria on July 1 2019. The bags must be plastic bags with handles, bags made of any type of plastic less than 70 microns in thickness and new or unused. This therefore excludes plastic bags such as supermarket produce bags, rubbish bags, bags without handles and more.

Te Pūtea Whakamauru Para – The Waste Minimisation Fund invests in projects which aim to reduce the amount of waste ending up in our landfills and in our oceans. It encourages innovation in creating a circular economy where waste is reused or remade instead of the linear economy we currently have where many items are used once and disposed of which has resulted in our plastic and waste pollution problems of today.

What can you do to help?

Use our Letter Templates to encourage local businesses to phase-out plastic straws and bags.

Support our projects and campaigns to phase out single-use a plastics in New Zealand, or join our discussion forums to exchange ideas with like-minded people.

External Educational Resources

Plastic Pollution Resources – The guides, videos, infographics and reports featured on this page are intended to inform and enable organizations and individuals alike in their efforts to advance actions that prevent plastic pollution and encourage solutions for a healthy ocean.

Further Reading and Resources

Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor

Ministry for the environment

Royal Society Te Apārangi

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