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Big plastic bag petition shows people want change

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage today pledged to take action on plastic bags when she accepted a petition signed by over 65,000 people along with a letter from Greenpeace.

“Since I took on this portfolio I have been struck by how much New Zealanders really care about the harmful impacts of single use plastic bags. The message I’ve got is that it’s time for change,” Ms Sage said.

“The previous National Government ignored this problem when a similar petition by Our Seas Our Future was considered in 2014 and decided to do nothing.

“This government cares about the environment and knows how much New Zealanders understand that single use plastics bags are produced using oil, create waste, and can end up in the ocean, choking marine life. They want leadership on the issue.”

Ms Sage recognised efforts by Progressive Enterprises, Foodstuffs, Mitre 10 and Z Energy to phase out single use plastic bags which will cut their use by 75%.  Retailers have also picked up the Soft Plastics Scheme which has been part-funded through the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund and gives some people places to take bags, including bread bags, for recycling.

“These moves are to be celebrated but are not enough. The question is to ban or not to ban. I have directed officials to look at the best options and report back.

“Under my watch New Zealand is not going to be part of the problem.

“I don’t want turtles, seabirds and fish choking to death on something that is a mere short term convenience. The time is right for change. This government cares about nature and a healthy environment. It’s taking action on climate change.  It’s time to turn around our rubbish record on waste and  plastic bags.

“Significantly reducing waste going to landfill by 2020 is a key goal of the Green Party’s confidence and supply agreement with Labour and is a priority for me as Associate Environment Minister.  While single use plastic bags represent 0.2 % of landfill waste they are an unnecessary pollutant.

“More than 30 countries have legislated to regulate single use plastic bags with bans or levies. New Zealand has been a laggard in this space for years, but that’s not going to be the case under this Government.”

“I thank Greenpeace and all those involved in the PURE Tour (Plastics Use Resistance Education) for their energy and work on this.”