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NRC backs proposed single-use plastic bag ban

Date: 10 August, 2018

The Northland Regional Council (NRC) is lending its voice to calls to reduce unnecessary use of plastics, including newly-released Government plans for a national ban on single-use plastic bags.

Government today announced plans to phase out single-use plastic bags over the next year and is calling for public submissions on the proposal until Friday 14 September.

The proposed ban comes after mounting consumer and other pressure for such a move, including by Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), which had earlier called for central government to urgently develop and implement a plan to eliminate the use of the bags and single-use plastic straws.

The organisation has also been encouraging member councils take steps to phase out the use of single-use plastic bags and straws at council facilities and events and wants a focus on limiting the use of single-use plastics generally, as well as promoting responsible recycling.

The moves – including the new government-driven bag ban proposal – have been backed by the Northland Regional Council, including Chairman Bill Shepherd and his deputy David Sinclair.

“I’m delighted that my fellow councillors are I are able to back these important initiatives,” Cr Sinclair says.

“On a personal level, I’ve been a long-time supporter of efforts to both clean up and reduce the amount of rubbish – much of it plastic – finding its way into our marine environment through the great work of groups like Sea Cleaners.”

The council (Cr Sinclair in particular) has supported Sea Cleaners for a number of years and in 2015 agreed – through its Long Term Plan process – to contribute $25,000 annually to help fund the trust’s work.

Councillor Sinclair says as well as organising the collection of rubbish, the Auckland-based trust – which also has a full-time, two-member team based in Opua – educates people about how it gets into the sea in the first place.

“Everything that gets dropped or falls to the ground ends up in the sea eventually. Rubbish thrown from a car window or carelessly discarded on the ground, even fairly long distances from the coastal environment, can still find its way into the ocean.”

Councillor Sinclair says with much of the vast volume of plastic already present in the environment expected to take literally thousands of years to degrade, it has the potential to cause environmental harm for much of that time if not properly dealt with.

“Not only is the push to reduce plastic use overall a good idea, aiming to eliminate single-use plastic bags and plastic straws in particular is just a simple common-sense thing.”

Councillor Sinclair says collectively, these measures offer a tangible and relatively easy way to effectively tackle ‘at source’ some of the vast amounts of rubbish that finds its way into our sea and coastal areas and sea every year.

“The environmental impact of single-use plastics has been well-traversed but it’s estimated New Zealanders still use 1.6 billion single-use plastic bags each year, with each used for roughly just 10 minutes or so on average before being disposed of.”

Plastic straws’ use is similarly fleeting; with an estimated 540 million-plus thrown away by Kiwi annually.

Councillor Sinclair says while growing numbers of supermarkets and other retailers had already begun working towards phasing out single-use plastic bags – largely in response to consumer pressure – he’s keen for both local and central government to do more in their spheres of influence too.

Those interested in learning more about Sea Cleaners can visit its website: www.seacleaners.com

People wanting to have their say on the government’s proposed single-use plastic bag ban can visit: www.mfe.govt.nz to share their views.

This includes options for the date the phase-out is to be complete by, what bags should be included, any retailers that should be exempted and how to best help people with the transition.


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