29th March 2009
‘Get Real’ plastic bag campaign launched
A nationwide campaign to introduce a levy on plastic supermarket bags has been launched today.
The ‘Get Real’ campaign is demanding that Progressive Enterprises and Foodstuffs start charging for plastic bags at their supermarket counters. The campaign is backed by environmental organisations around the country.
Sophie Ward, general manager of Sustainable Wanaka, said the supermarkets have made a token effort to reduce plastic bag use in the past five years.
“We need to see some real commitment from the supermarkets to reduce the huge number of plastic bags they give away each year, and we need some action.
“The most effective way to reduce plastic bag use is to stop giving them away for free. Even the Warehouse is going to start charging for its plastic bags in April, so the supermarkets are lagging well behind.”
“Burying almost a billion plastic bags in NZ landfills every year and having the rest end up in bushes and trees, in rivers and streams or ingested by wildlife is a BIG problem. Plastic bags are a waste of precious resources, alternatives exist.”
Ms Ward said individuals and organisations could show their support for a levy by going to www.getreal.org.nz and adding their name and comments to an open letter to the supermarkets.
“The money raised from a levy should be used to set up a fund for other important environmental projects,”
Plastic bag campaigner Angus Ho said experience here and overseas showed that having to pay for plastic bags quickly changed people’s behaviour.
“Even a small charge makes people think twice about whether they really need a plastic bag. A levy is the easiest way to break the habit of automatically taking six or seven bags home when you go shopping.”
Borders book store has reduced usage by 80 percent in one year with a 10 cent levy. Ireland and Taiwan have both reduced plastic bag usage by over 90 percent through a small levy.
“Most people use plastic bags for the length of time it takes to carry groceries from the car to the house. They’re used for five minutes, but their legacy of pollution is permanent,” said Mr Ho.
Plastic bags never completely break down. They disintegrate into smaller and smaller pieces, taking over 500 years and ending up as plastic dust in the air and soil.
“There are so many better alternatives: reusable bags, boxes or baskets. The only reason people automatically take plastic bags at the checkout is that they’re free,” said Mr Ho.
“But they’re not free if you count the cost that is paid by our water, soil and air.”
Mr Ho said he had recently received a letter from the Minister for the Environment, Dr Nick Smith, stating that the Ministry for the Environment is currently investigating the effectiveness and feasibility of price mechanisms.
“I don’t know how much time they need to investigate the effectiveness of a levy, because if you look at the evidence, it’s obvious that a levy is an extremely effective way to reduce plastic bag use.
“When the Warehouse surveyed 600 customers, they found 85 percent would not use plastic bags if they had to pay for them. That supports all the other evidence around the world. We don’t want investigations, we want action.”
The Get Real campaign is supported by:
· Bags Not (West Harbour, Dunedin)
· Community Recycling Network (national group of community recycling operators)
· Environschools Canterbury
· Golden Bay Bag Ladies
· Kiwi Plastic Bag Concern
· Mana Community Enterprise (Porirua)
· No Plastic Bags in New Zealand (national group, based in Wellington)
· The Dunedin Secondary Students Forum (supported by DCC and Sustainable Dunedin)
· Sustainable Wanaka
· Sustainable Otautahi Christchurch
· Wanaka Wastebusters