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Proposed single use plastic bag ban welcomed

Monday 13 August 2018

Media release for immediate use

The Rubbish Trip welcomes proposed single use plastic bag ban and encourages further policy change to reduce waste

The Rubbish Trip welcomes the Government’s announcement that it plans to phase-out single use plastic bags by July 2019, and encourages the public to submit on the Government’s consultation to ensure that the phase-out is the best that it can be.

“Central government leadership on this issue is long overdue; it’s great they’ve finally responded meaningfully to the community groups, NGOs, individuals and businesses who’ve been campaigning on this issue for years”, says co-founder of The Rubbish Trip, Liam Prince.

The Rubbish Trip applauds the Associate Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage, and the Prime Minister not only for taking action, but also for acknowledging that this is only the first step in the long road towards reducing New Zealand’s growing waste problem, and signalling that there is more to come.

Shrewd observers will have noticed that the Government announced the coming ban on single use plastic bags without having to pass new law. This is because the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 already allows the Government to ban items like plastic bags and successive Governments have had this power for over ten years.

By the same token, the Act could be used to phase-out other single-use plastics with a similar impact on marine pollution, such as plastic straws and cutlery, cotton buds, and polystyrene takeaway containers. Such bans would follow in the footsteps of many Pacific Island states and the European Commission, among others.

“We’re heartened that this action indicates the current Government’s willingness to start using, finally, the Waste Minimisation Act 2008, which exists to help New Zealand address many of our mounting waste problems. This is a great piece of legislation with huge potential, so central government refusal to use it over the last ten years has been frustrating”, says Hannah Blumhardt, co-founder of The Rubbish Trip.

The leader of the opposition, Simon Bridges, dismissed the plastic bag ban by calling it “low-hanging fruit”.

“The plastic bag ban is undoubtedly low-hanging fruit, but we don’t see why that’s a problem. So long as this isn’t where the Government’s waste minimisation plans end, it’s a perfectly logical place to start”, says Prince.

In their presentations and workshops about how to reduce household waste, The Rubbish Trip recommend people make changes step by step, going for the easy changes that can be made first.

“Waste policy is arguably the same. So little has happened in New Zealand’s waste policy for decades, there’s now so much to do, but it makes sense to go for the easy things first and slowly build towards coherent national waste minimisation policy.” says Blumhardt.

Further low-hanging fruit policy changes that could be taken under the Waste Minimisation Act include introducing a Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) to place a refundable deposit on beverage bottles and cans. This would address the littering of bottles and cans across the country, and lift New Zealand’s comparatively low recycling rates for these items. The Kiwi Bottle Drive campaign has been leading the call to introduce a CDS for some years.

Slightly higher, but nevertheless very important fruit, include increasing the Waste Disposal Levy to incentivise waste reduction and fund development of proper recycling infrastructure across the country. Another, to introduce Mandatory Product Stewardship schemes for problem waste streams, such as electronic waste and tyres, so that those who manufacture, sell and consume these products are responsible for addressing the waste they cause, rather than ratepayers and councils.

The Government’s proposal and consultation document can be found here.

For further information about how to survive without single use plastic bags and other wasteful items, check out resources on The Rubbish Trip website. Other great resources include www.rubbishfree.co.nz, Waste Free Living workshops with Kate Meads, and theZero Waste in NZ! Facebook group.

To learn more about what further policy changes could be made to reduce waste, visit The Kiwi Bottle Drive and New Zealand Product Stewardship Council websites.

*** ENDS ***


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