Calls for plastic bag levy growing

Orewa College students Jennifer Butcher, left, and Ashley Vujcich say it’s time to get tough on plastic bags.

A pair of Orewa College students have joined the call for a ban on single use plastic bags, starting a petition which currently has almost 170 signatures.

Ashley Vujcich and Jennifer Butcher started the petition as a Year 13 social studies project and say they are upset to see the amount of plastic bags that end up in Orewa Estuary, stuck among the mangroves. They say they see these all the time from the bridge that goes across to the college.

Ashley and Jennifer, both aged 17, support the idea of working towards a plastic bag free New Zealand, by introducing a 15 cent charge to the use of single plastic bags.

They say this would be more effective than an outright ban on the bags, as it will generate finds that can be used for work that benefits the environment.

“Everyone knows there’s a problem with the bags, but until you look into it more closely you don’t realise how big it is and how important it is to reverse the damage that has already been done,” Jennifer says.

Among the information gathered by the students to support their petition is the fact that an estimated 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic entered the ocean in 2010 from people living within 50 kilometres of the coast in 192 countries.

“This applies to our own beautiful New Zealand with us being an island country and we need to take a step forward in order to save our environment.”

“There are a lot of young people and students pushing for this sort of change,” Ashley says. “We’re asking is the convenience worth the damage that it does?”

The petition, called Say No to Plastic Bags in NZ is on Change.org

Calls for action on this issue are growing, with Greenpeace launching a video and petition on July 31 calling on the government to ban the bag. Greenpeace campaigner Elena Di Palma says New Zealand’s plastic waste problem is quickly “spiralling out of control”.

“Plastics in our oceans is a massive unseen problem, and it’s our kids who will be left to clean up the mess,” she said. “Kiwis use around 1.6 billion bags per year. They are used for an average of only 12 minutes, yet each one can take 1000 years to degrade.”

She says people are doing their bit, from sewing cloth bags to buying reusable coffee cups, but now it’s time for the government to step up and take action.

In addition, a group of Mayors, including Phil Goff, have called for the government to impose a national levy on single use plastic bags, or give local authorities the power to do so.

In the meantime, two Australian supermarkets, Woolworths – a parent company of Countdown – and Coles, have announced that they will stop giving single-use plastic bags to shoppers within the next year.

And earlier this month, the government in Vanuatu announced that it will ban the use and importation of plastic bottles and plastic bags, which cannot be reused.


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