Hawaii holiday sparks crusade on plastic bags

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 13:00 10/07/2014

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Picton woman Linda Thompson wants to rid the seaside town of plastic shopping bags.

Thompson held a public meeting in Picton last week, and is working to drum up support for the idea.

Most Picton retailers who used plastic shopping bags supported the idea, she said, but they were looking for cost-effective ways. Most alternatives seemed to be more expensive and it was not right for retailers to bear the costs.

"If they can't do it, it's up to us to take the initiative."

That might include a sponsored substitute bag for shoppers to use instead of a plastic bag, she said. Another arrangement could be a "shared bag" system, in which cloth bags were available in a bin at the shop entrance for people to put bags in and take them out to use as needed if they didn't have their own with them.

But the big thing was to get people thinking about alternatives, she said.

"We want to take people back to where we were before we had plastic bags and used cloth bags, backpacks, or baskets."

The desire to go plastic bag-free was sparked by conversations with Americans while Thompson was holidaying in Hawaii.

"Everyone was ‘Oh, New Zealand, your country is so beautiful. I want to visit there'. It made me think about it - it was beautiful, but oh the rubbish."

She also saw rubbish collectors with "monstrous" large bags of plastic and polystyrene foam rubbish and wondered how the island state dealt with its rubbish.

During her flight home, Thompson identified the two forms of rubbish that most annoyed her: plastic shopping bags and plastic meat trays. She decided to tackle the shopping bags first.

Thompson teamed up with Tash Luxton, who works at Dolphin Watch Nature Tours and runs the Conservation Kids club.

They talked about the effects of discarded bags on Picton's marine life, and therefore its tourism industry, and about Collingwood, in Golden Bay, which had already gone plastic bag-free.

"We have one more zero in our population than them - they have 400, we have 4000 - but we can do it too . . . It just seemed the right time."

Thompson called a public meeting, which was attended by eight people. A group had now been formed and it was working on a logo and planning events to raise awareness.

Dolphin Watch had adopted the plastic bag-free mantra and hoped "peer pressure" would work on other businesses. "It's an idea we've got to sell . . . It's good for businesses on the waterfront."

Thompson said tourists were increasingly environmentally concerned, so it could be a good issue for Picton.

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cathie.bell@mex.co.nz

- The Marlborough Express

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