Greens claim win but more action needed on plastic bags

The Green Party is welcoming a new system for recycling plastic bags as a useful first step but one that is not by itself enough to solve the problem of plastic bag pollution.
“While the new recycling system announced by the Government is a positive step in the right direction, it won’t fix the problem of plastic bags ending up in our waterways and on our beaches because it won’t actually lead to any fewer plastic bags being used,” Green Party waste spokesperson Denise Roche said.
“The Government’s small step comes as a result of pressure from the Green Party and other groups, including 13,000 New Zealanders who signed an online petition and 10,000 who sent postcards to the Government calling for action on plastic bag pollution.
“We still need a levy on plastic bags and to move towards an outright ban on their use – like in Australia where most states either have a ban or a levy on flimsy single-use plastic bags – because of the harm they do to animals and the environment.
“Nick Smith says his new system is modelled on a successful Australian scheme, but he’s conveniently leaving out that in most Australian states they also have a small levy on plastic bag use – that’s the missing piece of the puzzle.
“Unfortunately, the new system does nothing to reduce the number of plastic bags that people use, so it seems unlikely to reduce the number of plastic bags that clog our drains and end up on our beaches and in our waterways where they harm birds and fish.
“The new system relies on goodwill and people going out of their way to drop their used bags off at special locations rather than put them out with their normal kerbside recycling collection – realistically, how many people are actually going to do that?
“This is a half measure that won’t fix the bigger problem, which is that New Zealanders use about 1 billion plastic bags every year.
“There are more than 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans. Countries like Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Bangladesh, as well as many Australian and US states, are taking strong action to stop this number rising but the New Zealand Government still isn’t doing enough.
“Thousands of New Zealanders already choose reusable bags rather than plastic when they’re shopping. The time for half measures is past – John Key and the Government need to show some real leadership on this issue," Ms Roche said.

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