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Waiheke waging war on plastic

Published: 3 October 2018

With the Government set to ban single-use plastic bags, Waiheke Local Board wants to open a new front in the war on waste.

The board has come out in support of the ban but called for the law to go further to tackle other plastic bags and single-use plastic products.

Board chair Cath Handley says in 2016 Waiheke Countdown became the first New Zealand supermarket to charge for single-use plastic bags, as part of an agreement between the board and Progressive Foods.

"That came after resident concerns, particularly from the Bring Your Own Bag collective which has been making reusable bags for shoppers for years," she says.

The Waiheke store recently also removed biodegradable plastic bags after a two-month trial.

"Waiheke is a unique island environment within the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park and we all know how damaging plastic in the ocean can be," Ms Handley says.

"We have a proud tradition of engaging locals in waste minimisation, including the board-supported Waiheke Resources Trust, which has been educating the community for more than 20 years.

"The board says the phase-out should cover plastic bags of all thicknesses because otherwise producers will make bags just above the threshold. Most importantly, a phase-out of all plastic bags will help to reduce plastic waste.

"It should cover all retailers to ensure the phase-out is managed consistently across the retail sector."

Ms Handley says the board wants a "robust" definition of reusable – such as being made from material that allows 120 uses.

"We also say the phase-out should cover other types of plastic products that cause environmental damage, such as drinking straws, single-use plates and cutlery, six-pack can rings and dog-dropping bags."

A return to the days of refundable bottles was also favoured. "We should introduce refunds on alternative drink containers because it would have an immediate impact on reducing litter in our streets, parks and waterways."

Former Waiheke board member Denise Roche, now on the Waitematā Local Board, raised similar issues at her board’s meeting, calling single-use plastic bags "the gateway drug", and calling for waste to be treated as a resource.

"There has been criticism that picking on single-use plastic bags is just targeting low-hanging fruit, but if it is, I have no problem with picking it."