Today is the start of Plastic Free July. Since its inception in Perth, Western Australia four years ago, more and more people and organisations from around the world have joined the call to refuse single use plastic products.
Nearly all of the plastic we use is made from non-renewable oil or gas. The Ministry for the Environment estimates that in New Zealand we send 200,000 tonnes of plastic to landfill each year – half of which is plastic packaging – and much of that packaging is produced to be used once and then discarded.
I’ll be joining in with local Plastic Free July action this year, having signed up to the Plastic Free July Negative Waste Challenge organised by the phenomenal Tina Ngata from Gisborne who last year documented her efforts to reduce her personal use of plastic on her Facebook page The Non-Plastic Maori.
I don’t know if I can achieve the same results as Tina but I can at least eradicate the Big Four: – single use plastic bags, drinking straws, disposable coffee cups and drink bottles.
Since late April I have been running a Say No To Plastic Bags Campaign focussing on reducing and phasing out single use plastic bags. The campaign involves public meetings and having done around 20 so far I can report that they are attracting good publicity and good audiences of people who are fed up with this waste of resources. At the Gisborne meeting I and was lucky enough to have Tina come and present and she explained how she and her partner reported how they had staked out a local supermarket carpark the day before and counted the number of plastic bags being carried out of the building. In one hour they counted 360 bags. When you multiply that by the number of hours the supermarket is open and the number of supermarkets across the country, the fact that we use 1 billion single-use plastic bags every year becomes increasingly feasible.
Across the country more and more communities are fighting back against the blind consumption of single use plastic products, such as plastic bags. I have another 10 public meetings scheduled in the next few weeks and at the end of Plastic Free July I hope to present a Members’ Bill calling on the Minister for the Environment to phase out single use plastic bags by declaring them a‘ priority product’ under the Waste Minimisation Act.
In the meantime I have also distributed nearly 10,000 postcards that call on the Minister to phase plastic bags out and this call is being taken up by others. Dunedin-based group Our Seas Our Future for example have developed a Facebook event and petition that is being taken up by thousands of people.
For maximum impact I will be attempting to coordinate the presentation of this petition (and any others out there) with the postcards to the Government once Plastic Free July is concluded.
In the meantime, I just have to get through the month without forgetting to bring my drink bottle, reusable bags and, most importantly, the Keep Cup for my coffee.