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Beware false solutions to plastic bag crisis – Greenpeace

Press Release – Greenpeace New Zealand

Mon 21 May: Greenpeace is warning that NZ retailers enthusiasm to find replacements for single-use plastic bags may result in worse outcomes for the environment.

Mon 21 May: Greenpeace is warning that NZ retailers’ enthusiasm to find replacements for single-use plastic bags may result in worse outcomes for the environment.

Countdown and New World have begun removing conventional lightweight plastic bags that were previously free to shoppers but Greenpeace has learned both supermarkets are trialling the sale of heavier-weight plastic bags to replace them.

This new option, which Countdown is calling “emergency reusable bags,” falls somewhere between a truly reusable cloth bag and the single-use plastic bag, is both confusing and detrimental to the planet, says Greenpeace.

“We applaud retailers for phasing out single-use bags but the introduction of heavier weight plastic bags for sale is a false solution,” says Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, Emily Hunter.

“These new thicker plastic bags are sold as ‘emergency reusable’ but while they could be reused a few times, their cheap price means they are likely to be used only once – flooding our environment with more, heavier, longer lasting plastics.”

Other retailers are following suit with alternatives to single-use plastic bags that are also problematic according to Greenpeace.

The Warehouse is replacing its plastic bags with compostable bags, which present many of the same problems for our waterways and oceans as single-use plastic bags. Compostable bags do not decompose properly in the marine environment.

“We commend retailers like Bunnings, Mitre 10 and Z Energy who are eliminating single-use plastic bags entirely, and the big supermarkets taking steps to tackle the problem with the promotion of reusable bags – but offering heavier plastic bags or compostable bags is concerning for our oceans and coastlines.”
Greenpeace says these options perpetuate the throw away culture which lies at the root of the problem.

“The mixed bag of voluntary strategies being deployed by various retailers highlights the urgent need for proper regulation.

“At the moment it’s a hodge-podge, which is unfair for retailers, confusing for shoppers, and means we’re not doing our best to tackle the scourge of plastics that are harming turtles and polluting our oceans.”

“This underlines exactly why the government must step in and ban single-use plastic bags, ensuring a fair playing field and a clear definition of what a ban on bags really means” says Hunter.

Greenpeace advocates for a comprehensive regulatory ban on selling or giving away plastic shopping bags that allows retailers to sell reusable bags designed for at least 125 uses.

“Already the cloth bags available for sale at many retail stores fit the 125-use criteria so it’s not a big leap for government to ban all other plastic bags.”

Following the delivery of a 65,000 strong petition in March calling on the government to implement a nationwide regulatory ban on single-use plastic bags, Greenpeace provided an oral submission to the Environment Select Committee To date, there has not yet been any action by government.

“While politicians wait, sea turtles are literally washing up dead on New Zealand beaches.”

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