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Comment: Banning plastic bags in NZ just the tip of the iceberg

NOTED logo NOTED 10/08/2018 Ellie Hooper

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Greenpeace's Ellie Hooper says we must go further in the fight to end plastic pollution.

This morning, as PM Jacinda Ardern announced plans to phase out single-use plastic bags in New Zealand, I couldn’t help but reflect on what a difference a year makes.

Twelve months ago, despite the efforts of many individuals and groups around the country, the issue of plastic bags just wasn’t on the national agenda.  

underwater view of a swimming pool: Banning plastic bags in NZ just the tip of the iceberg © Bauer Media Banning plastic bags in NZ just the tip of the iceberg

For more than a decade, we’ve seen inspiring groups work tirelessly to combat plastic pollution in New Zealand. It’s been thanks to their commitment that the issue of single-use plastic bags is now a mainstream concern.

A Greenpeace petition calling for the Government to ban the bag, signed by almost 75,000 people over the course of the year, built on the momentum created by so many dedicated people.

And then this morning, we finally got there. The bag ban dominated the news, and was met with widespread celebration from Kiwis across the board.

And while celebrations are definitely in order – two billion fewer bags in the system each year is not to be sniffed at – what’s clear now is that we must take this momentum and run with it – as fast as we can. We must go much further if we want to truly protect our oceans for the future.

No one needs reminding what’s at stake. From turtles to whales, fish to seabirds, many of our most precious marine species are under threat from plastic pollution. These creatures deserve our protection, and we have the power to do so.

Today the Government took a promising first step for the future of our country. Banning the single-use plastic bag is the right thing to do. But we’ve no time to waste.

If we want to live our clean and green image, we should be leaders on this issue, putting measures in place that will seek to reduce single-use plastics across the board – not just bags.

What we need next is a comprehensive strategy from the Government that maps out our pathway to going plastic free.

It’s certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.

Across the world, we’re seeing other governments implement strategies that tackle the worst sources of plastic pollution, and it’s time for us to get on board.

So let’s do this – let’s use this people-powered win as the pressure point that tips New Zealand from being one of the first in the world to ban single-use plastic shopping bags, to a country that leads the world down a pathway towards banning single-use plastics altogether.

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