Tāmaki initiative tackles plastic waste

GROWING ISSUE: New Zealanders use 1.6 billion plastic bags a year.
New Zealanders use 1.6 billion plastic bags a year. Photo: Pixabay

Tāmaki residents are tackling a global environmental problem by saying no to plastic bags. 

The Tāmaki WRAP (Waste Reduction Action Project) campaign is aimed at reducing the number of plastic bags used in the community. 

Shoppers who collect stamps at participating shops when they bring a reusable bag can redeem them for a hot drink at supporting cafes in Glen Innes and Panmure.

WRAP spokesperson Dorthe Siggaard said the reaction from the public and retailers has been so positive one retailer has nearly run out of the stamp cards.

One reason Siggaard feels the ‘say no to plastic bags’ campaign has been so successful is because Tāmaki WRAP know the local businesses and community well.

She hopes promotional material produced for the campaign will be used by other communities to spread the message.

“The more people we reach the bigger awareness they will get about the global issues. Think globally, act locally.”

Plastic bags are a contributor to environmental issues, many end up in oceans or landfills. 

In February, the United Nations Environment Programme launched a global Clean Seas programme aimed at eliminating plastic pollution such as plastic micro-beads and plastic bags by 2022.

They estimate there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050 if present trends continue.

New Zealanders use 1.6 billion bags a year with an estimated 40,000 ending up in landfills every hour.

For our oceans, the effect of plastic waste is evident in the stomachs of birds and fish. 

Technical director of Cook Islands Te Ipukarea Society, Kelvin Passfield told RNZ he had seen the effect in the Pacific Ocean.

“Just about every fish you open, if you look at the gut contents there’ll be some sort of plastic in there.

Passfield said plastic waste also affects sea birds. 

“You’ll find their guts full of plastic because they think it is food and try and eat it or bring it back to feed their babies.”

As well switching to reusable bags the public can help our oceans by recycling soft plastic packaging at special recycle bins around Auckland.  

The soft plastic recycling scheme part-funded by taxpayers recycled approximately 25 million items in 2016.

The government has announced a future ban on plastic micro-beads in products but has not banned single-use plastic bags.