Call to ban plastic bags reaches parliament

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

A petition calling for a regulatory ban on plastic bags has been delivered to parliament.  Over 65,000 people are supporting the call following concerns on the impact of plastic in the ocean and environment.

Anti-plastic crusader, environmental activist and author of the blog ‘The Non-Plastic Māori’, Tina Ngata says, "Not only is it killing our marine life, not only is it interrupting our ecosystems but it's also getting into our food systems and getting into our bodies."

Captain of traditional double-hull ocean vessel Te Matau-a-Māui, Raihania Tipoki says, "There's only three places that plastics ends up: Ranginui, Papatūānuku and Tangaroa."

Ngata says NZ supermarkets produce 430,000 plastic bags per week and are one of the main causes of plastic pollution.

"If we're not ready to ban the most unnecessary of the plastic products which is plastic bags then we can't really consider ourselves to be serious about reducing the plastic problem as a whole."

The Te Matau a Maui crew have been trawling the East Coast to measure how many plastic particles there are per square kilometre of the ocean.  Despite claims the plastic comes from other countries, Ngata says the evidence of higher plastic concentrations near town centers shows it's a problem created in NZ.

“We surveyed Oriental Beach a few days ago and found some of the highest concentrations of plastic pellet pollution that our international researchers have seen anywhere in the world,” says Ngata.

Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage welcomed the petition, saying that it's long overdue and the government needs to address the issue.

“I'm delighted now as Associate Minister for the Environment that we can take action on plastic bags,” says Sage.

Ngata says they will continue the ocean-based research in other areas, “We're going to be continuing that tradition of science on board waka and are looking to be able to supply plastic trawls and the science and the protocols for any waka hourua who want to step into that space.”

Tipoki says, "If we're to avoid there being more plastic than fish by 2050 in our oceans, we simply have to turn off the plastic at the tap."

Furthermore, Ngata will also be calling on the government to develop a national strategy on waste production.