Greens want a plastic bag-free New Zealand

Green Party MP and waste spokesperson Denise Roche is leading a revolt against plastic bags.
Mark Taylor

Green Party MP and waste spokesperson Denise Roche is leading a revolt against plastic bags.

The Greens have come up with a new plan to try to keep the country's clean image in the bag.

A plastic bag-free NZ is part of the party's ongoing efforts to minimise waste and reduce carbon emissions, and Hamilton and Raglan are two places the party says show support in phasing out plastic bags.

Green Party waste spokesperson Denise Roche is leading the charge and is canvassing the country for support from consumers and retailers this month. A Hamilton meeting on Friday was to be followed by a Raglan meeting on Saturday to keep locals informed on the master plan.

Carolyn Brocas-Gibbs says she was faced with an angry teller when she tried to forgo a plastic bag at her supermarket.
Rebekah Parsons-King

Carolyn Brocas-Gibbs says she was faced with an angry teller when she tried to forgo a plastic bag at her supermarket.

Roche said New Zealand churns through one billion plastic bags each year, and they're only used for 12 minutes before being tossed into another bag - the trash.

Hamilton mother Carolyn Brocas-Gibbs said her family used seven plastic bags each week.

She wants to be more environmentally friendly, but said grocers haven't been supportive in the past.

"I took my canvas bags, one time, to the fruit shop but when I got to the checkout, I had loose onions rolling around. The lady at the counter was annoyed my food was loose and told me I needed a bag. And so I didn't do it again."

Brocas-Gibbs wasn't sure what happened to her plastic bags when they're thrown away - she reused them as much as she could - but said she'd heard they can end up in waterways and beaches.

"I do wonder though, if I put my plastic bag in the rubbish and it goes onto the curb, I'm not sure then how my plastic bags are going to end up in the waterway.

"If it does, it's not really my fault."

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Roche said New Zealanders were changing their behaviours and are trying to reduce their plastic bag use, but government needed to show leadership.

"I think it would be good for councils to have that ability [to phase out plastic bags] but I think the only way to really hold producers to account is a central government piece of legislation.

"We want the Government to declare plastic bags a priority product under the Waste Minimisation Act 2005 so that we can restrict and ultimately phase out their use."

Roche said New Zealand was lagging behind in "a global movement" to stop using plastic bags.

Ireland for example, enacted a plastic bag levy decades ago. New York City plans to introduce a ten cents bag levy in 2016.

This July 3 will be International Plastic Bag Free Day. By then, Roche will have a private member's bill ready.. 

By the end of July, Roche wants 5000 local businesses to have pledged they'll work to reduce the use of plastic bags, which she hopes will signal Government to move on the issue.

Roche said the bags cause serious damage to our seas and wildlife. More than 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic float about in the world's oceans, according to latest research by the 5 Gyres Institute.

"New Zealanders are already showing their dislike of plastic bags and preference for reusable – now we need John Key and the Government to follow suit," Roche said.

Roche will host a meeting at Raglan House, Bow St, Raglan at 12pm on Saturday, to drum up support and help chart a course to create a plastic-bag free New Zealand.

 - Stuff

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