Greens welcome progress on hard to recycle and single use plastics, but more needs to be done

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

The Green Party welcomes progress on the phase-out of some hard to recycle plastics and some single-use plastics, but says more must be done.

“Plastic waste is one of our generation’s greatest environmental challenges,” says Green Party spokesperson for waste, Eugenie Sage.

New Zealanders dispose of an estimated 159 grams of plastic waste per person per day. With a population of around 5 million the Ministry for the Environment estimates that equates to more than 290,000 tonnes annually. Plastic is the most common litter found on our beaches (61% of all items in surveys for Sustainable Coastline’s Litter Intelligence programme).

“The level of plastic pollution in the oceans is unacceptable. New Zealanders want urgent action, so we welcome the steps announced today,” Sage says.

“Seabirds, turtles, whales and other marine life should not have to die from our plastic pollution. Phasing out expanded polystyrene takeaway containers and single use items such as plastic produce bags, cutlery, and tableware by October 2022 is good for people and planet. It helps reduce plastic waste and pollution.

“It is disappointing the Government has delayed a decision until mid-2022 on whether to phase-out expanded polystyrene used in packaging for large items and chill boxes, and has not yet acted to phase out so-called ‘flushable’ wet wipes containing plastic.

“We wish the Government had heeded the strong public calls to phase out wet wipes containing plastic. They cause troublesome fatbergs in wastewater pipes and contribute to sewage spills in rivers and harbours. In 2019, fatbergs were estimated to be costing communities across New Zealand at least $16 million per year in blockages. Tauranga City Council alone was dealing with two tonnes of wet wipes in their pipes each week.

“Expanded polystyrene is one of the worst forms of plastic. It breaks easily and polystyrene particles are easily washed into streams and the ocean, harming our precious marine life. It is very difficult to recycle and alternatives are available.

“There is a big work programme ahead of the Ministry for the Environment. The Green Party hopes the Ministry and expert sector groups can prioritise phasing out single use cups such as coffee cups (often plastic lined) which New Zealanders use around 295 million of per year. We want to see progress on this well before the Government target date of 2025.

“The proposed review of the Waste Minimisation Act is also urgent. The current legal process around phasing out problem plastics item by item is cumbersome. We need a faster and more comprehensive process.

“The 2019 report, Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand, by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, paints a vision for a future where there is significantly less plastic entering nature as waste and litter.

“This requires a collective effort by Government, businesses, scientists, innovators and households. Government must lead and take clear and decisive action to drive change towards increased materials recovery, recycling and reducing plastic waste.

“Today’s announcement helps.”

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