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Bring your own bag on Plastic-Free Friday

GEORGE GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 19/03/2014
Deb Lyttle
Gil Alcock
PLASTIC CHALLENGE: BYO BAG founder Deb Lyttle and her colleagues are challenging Waiheke to give up plastic bags for one day this Friday.
NewGen
ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVE: Stores like NewGen have taken the BYO Bag initiative on board and won local hero awards. From left: Waiheke campaign co-founder Jennifer Fountain, NewGen Kitchenware manager Jamie Smith and store owner Jenny Amies.

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A movement to stop people using disposable plastic shopping bags is challenging the island to go without them for one day this Friday.

BYO BAG Waiheke Island founder Deb Lyttle says the one-day initiative will show everyone just how easy it is to avoid plastic.

"On the heels of announcements by Tasmania, Hawaii and Los Angeles to ban plastic shopping bags, it should be easy for Waiheke to experience one day relying on reusable bags instead," she says.

The group is also encouraging people to avoid plastic drink bottles and pay attention to how pervasive plastic packaging is in their lives.

Ms Lyttle says a lot of plastic ends up in the environment and ocean every day.

Last week, a coastal cleanup on Waiheke Island saw 18,250 litres - more than 1.5 tons - of rubbish removed within one week.

"It helps us see first hand just how much plastic rubbish we inadvertently allow into the Hauraki Gulf."

Sarah Silverstar from Ocean Aware, Waiheke's beach clean-up organisation, says the plastic doesn't just melt away.

"It breaks into small bits that are ingested by fish, turtles, ocean mammals and other organisms. It is toxic in the extreme and also entangles creatures."

Ms Lyttle says the situation is a health issue not just for marine life.

"It is not talked about as often but plastic also poses risks to human health."

She says a recent medical study into how plastic contributes to obesity found the BPAs (carbon-based synthetic compounds) in plastic bottles and packaging cause cancerous tumours in the liver.

"The University of Michigan School of Public Health study is just one of many investigating the impact of plastic on human health including autism, infertility and diabetes," Ms Lyttle says.

Several countries have begun banning the use of certain components in plastic in children's toys and cosmetic products.

The European Union announced in November that all member states should aim to reduce the total use of plastics by 80 per cent over the next three years.

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