Plastic Policy Supported by the Evidence

Submitted by Sandra on Sun, 08/27/2017 - 10:40
bottle on grass

The New Zealand Product Stewardship Council (NZPSC) supports the Green Party policy on plastic bottles and single use plastic bags, released today.

The overwhelming weight of research shows that plastic bottles and single use plastic bags are causing significant environmental harm. The G20 Action Plan on Marine Litter recently recognised the urgent need for action to prevent and reduce marine litter in order to preserve human health and marine and coastal ecosystems, and mitigate marine litter’s economic costs and impacts. This report also reiterated the need to put in place effective actions such as product stewardship or bottle deposit schemes.

“Bottle deposit schemes are an internationally proven way of dealing with NZ’s 2.23 billion drink containers each year” says Sandra Murray, NZPSC Co-ordinator “All Canadian provinces, South Australia, NSW, most of Europe and much of the US already have bottle deposits, while England, Ireland, Scotland, Queensland and ACT are introducing them”

“Most drinks are purchased while away from the home, so kerbside recycling is not picking the bottles up. Only about 35-40% of drink containers get recycled as a result. A bottle deposit scheme would raise this to over 85%”

“A bottle deposit scheme would reduce litter by about 65%, create around 2,400 jobs nationwide and create fundraising opportunities for community groups. It would also reduce both plastic entering our oceans and greenhouse gas emissions” says Sandra

The ‘The Kiwi Bottle Drive’ campaign supported by the NZPSC has been raising awareness on the benefits of a bottle deposit scheme in New Zealand. As part of this campaign people have been encouraged to send plastic drink bottles to the Associate Minister for the Environment, Scott Simpson, calling for the introduction of a bottle deposit scheme under S23 of the Waste Minimisation Act 2008.

“We believe more than 3,000 bottles have been sent to the Minister and nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition calling for bottle deposits” says Sandra “everyone keeps asking us ‘why don’t we have this already? It’s just common cents!”

The NZPSC is also supportive of the Green Party policy to firstly introduce a 20c levy on single use plastic bags, and then phase them out over three years.

“Single-use plastic bags are an unnecessary product,” says Dr Trisia Farrelly, Senior Lecturer at Massey University.  “All single- use plastics are made to be thrown away.  Their material properties are either immediately or eventually hazardous to human and non-human life – often in unpredictable ways”. 
Plastics leach monomers and additives and attract and carry persistent organic pollutants into marine life from the bottom to the top of the food chain and human life is not exempt from the deleterious impacts of these plastic/toxin entanglements. 
“The public are becoming increasingly aware of the urgency to respond to the negative impacts of single-use plastics” says Dr Farrelly “Government has to respond to the public’s well-warranted concerns regarding these easily avoidable and hazardous materials.”

The movement in New Zealand to introduce a levy or a ban on single-use plastic bags has been growing stronger, with thousands signing petitions calling for a ban or levy. Support was also shown by the 90% of mayors who signed a letter calling for a ban or levy.

The Green Party call for a Zero Waste vision, and for all plastic packaging and products to be covered by a product stewardship scheme under the Waste Minimisation Act (2008), is a responsible reaction to the acknowledgement of a global problem.

“The Waste Minimisation Act (2008) was intended to be used to manage problematic waste,” says Sandra. “Recent research shows there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050; and that plastic is now present in approximately one third of the fish caught in many marine zones. These plastic contaminated fish end up on our dinner tables, suggesting a strong need for our government to take action.”

The NZPSC is pleased a political party has taken this issue seriously enough to raise it during an election period. “We are confident most political parties support bottle deposits and the regulation of single-use plastic bags” says Sandra “However, industry lobbyists have in the past worked to supress the urgent and considered management of these hazardous products by providing ‘alternative facts’ to decision makers, delaying action”.Image removed.