Is the tide turning on plastics?

One use plastic items: A lot of New Zealanders – myself included have them and/or use them. They might be micro beads or Pump water bottles or Coke bottles. They might be single use plastic bags.

Is it it just a beat up when media intone that war has been declared on single use plastics? Or is there a degree of realism in that idea? In the last year moves to phase out micro beads have been announced by the Government. Supermarket company Countdown has to their credit announced an intention to stop using plastic bags by the end of 2018. Various petitions and other social activism measures are rumbling on the internet, trying to drum up support for a complete change in how we view plastics.

The major targets appear to be straws, bags, micro beads, but could be potentially expanded to include single use bottles, containers.

Some time ago Pak N Save introduced a 5c charge for a bag. It was a modest step forward even at the time and would seem like a baby’s effort at making their company more sustainable if it had happened today.

Secondary uses will continue to exist. When one takes the dog for a walk, if the dog chooses to poo somehow you have to scoop up and store its droppings until you can dispose of them. I second hand use plastic bags by putting sandwiches I eat for lunch at work in them.

The National Party is not so sure. Their spokesperson for the environment, Scott Simpson, suggested that the moves against plastic are meaningless since apparently we do not know where it came from. Having said that, National to their credit did initiate the moves to institute a ban on micro beads, which will come into force later this year.

The use of social media to generate concern has been widespread. Video’s taken by tourists in Bali and other popular locations show surfers at sea riding waves that have appalling amounts of man made rubbish in them – plastics, paper, aluminium cans and so forth.

However, New Zealand will have to unveil comprehensive reforms against all types of waste at some point in the near future, or it will run the risk of losing the remainder of its reputation as a clean, green nation. China announced a ban on importing waste in July 2017, which took effect on 1 January 2018. This resulted in $21 million in waste from New Zealand being refused per annum. Other nations such as Vanuatu are instituting full bans on single use plastic bags.

National might not be sure about a campaign beginning against single use plastics. However there are plenty of other organizations and individuals who believe that waste plastic has reached critical levels with lasting consequences if nothing happens to mitigate the problem soon. The tide might not have yet turned against single use plastics, but it is coming. And soon.

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