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Plastic bag mail-in to Minister begins

Plastic bag mail-in to Minister begins

World Environment Day (5 June) has been marked with the launch of a campaign to have supermarkets charge for plastic checkout bags.

The Say No to Plastic Bags Campaign is directing its Great Plastic Bag Mail-In to the Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs, to urge her to lead supermarkets towards charging for plastic bags. People who support the introduction of a charge on bags are asked to post a folded bag, in an envelope, to the Minister for the Environment, freepost to Parliament. The mail-in will run from June until August.

Campaign spokesperson Cath Knight said that the mail-in would encourage the Minister to take a lead in reducing plastic bag waste in New Zealand. This could either be achieved by introducing a levy, as has been done in Ireland, or by bringing industry players together to reach a voluntary agreement on charging for bags.

“The Minister says that she is ‘watching with real interest’ what industry does. But with major supermarket chains using the Commerce Act and other excuses to avoid responsibility, we believe that the Minister needs to take a more active role in reducing plastic bag waste. The Government needs to lead, not just watch!

“New Zealanders use, and throw away 3.2 million bags each day. If supermarkets charge customers for each bag used, rather than hiding the cost of ‘free’ bags in food prices, that huge number will reduce,” said Ms Knight.

Ms Knight said that charging for bags was essential if plastic bag waste was to be seriously reduced. The problems associated with plastic bags include litter, choking of farm-animals, blocking of waterways, being a hazard to marine life, and unnecessary waste ending up in landfills, where they may take many hundreds of years to break down. Promoting reusable bags was the answer, but this would only be effective if plastic bags were charged for.

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