In the ‘green’ suburb of Titirangi West Auckland, under the control of Waitakerie City Council which has always declared itself an eco-city, the Greens in West Auckland made waste the theme of this year’s Earth Day.
Shoppers and café goers were treated to a Waste Monster outside the suburb’s only supermarket, bedecked in just a few of the 800 million plastic bags New Zealanders use each year.
Green Party members handed out free stickers to remind shoppers to take their bags with them when they go shopping saying plastic bags are one example of unnecessary waste clogging landfills
In Wellington’s Civic Square (and closer to Parliament), the party’s waste spokesperson and promoter of the Waste Minimisation Bill before Parliament, Green MP Nandor Tanczos hosted an art installation to illustrate how much waste the average New Zealander sends to the rubbish dump each year.
Tanczos has been lobbying supermarkets to get them to cut down on the number of plastic bags they hand out.
The New Zealand Retailers Association (NZRA), and retailers Progressive Enterprises, Foodstuffs and The Warehouse are already on schedule to meet a 20 per cent reduction in plastic bag usage by 2008, according to the NZ Packaging Council and have recently launched a new joint campaign to get their customers to cut down on the use of plastic shopping bags by only taking what they need and reusing what they take.
Barry Hellberg of the New Zealand Retailers Association (NZRA) says that whilst plastic shopping bags represent just 0.2 per cent of a landfill, they are often seen as an icon of waste.
"In the last two years since setting the 20 per cent target under the Packaging Accord (2004), grocery retailers have reduced the number of plastic bags in relation to items sold by 6 per cent and saved 434 tonnes of plastic through an 8 per cent reduction in the amount of plastic used. In the same period, the sale of reusable bags in supermarkets has increased 37 per cent,” he says.
“However plastic bags still punch well above their weight as a waste stream because we tend to associate them with litter and rubbish."
"We are commissioning consumer research in New Zealand into people's attitudes to plastic bags and to understand better how they are re-used around the home. It makes no sense for us to get rid of the plastic bag and replace it with an even heavier substitute because people will still need bin liners but we do want to make shoppers think about how many is enough."