Going beyond plastic bags: The next step in the fight to save our oceans

by Ellie Hooper / 13 December, 2017

 A plastic bag ban would be a great start - but it's nowhere near where it should end, argues Greenpeace's Ellie Hooper.

Since July, we’ve been campaigning to ban the single-use plastic bag here in New Zealand.

And while there’s no legislation yet, the Government is allegedly drafting some as we speak, heeding the call of tens of thousands of Kiwis who’ve campaigned hard for this change, some for years.

The question is, will they go for a ban or some other half-arsed option like making people pay for bags at the checkout?

A ban is a no-brainer. Many other countries are already committed to one, and it’s high time we did our bit too. Plus, large retail chains New World, Countdown and Mitre 10 have already seen the sense in a ban, so why won't the Government?

After all, the ocean is borderless, yet we know plastic is entering it from every corner of the globe, culminating in huge floating garbage patches that are a tragic sight to behold. 

Getting a ban will be huge. It’ll mean 1.6 billion fewer bags in the system per year, which in turn means fewer entering our oceans and harming marine life. But plastic bags are just the beginning.

The plastic problem is so vast and spiralling, our patron saint of the environment, David Attenborough, says the “future of humanity” is at stake because of it.

Likewise, over 200 countries recognised this on Wednesday, when they signed a UN resolution to eliminate plastic pollution in the sea, after years of inaction on the issue.

The good news is that after years of little to no leadership on plastic waste, the New Zealand Government seems to finally have an understanding of the scale of the problem.

This week, they announced a ban on the sale of products with microbeads - those miniature plastic pieces found in many cosmetic items that slip through filters, enter the ocean, get gobbled up by aquatic life, and end up in human bellies.

These plastic particles are terrible for the wellbeing of sea creatures like turtles, and chances are you also don’t want them ending up on your plate.

The issue gets larger still. Plastic wrapping is on every supermarket item from bananas to cucumbers, to drink bottles and the straws dealt out in abundance.

The problem is so huge it’s hard to know where to start. But start we must.

Coca-Cola bottles on the production line at the Coca-Cola.

So what’s next?

Earlier this year, we launched a global campaign against soft drinks giant Coca-Cola. They alone churn out billions of single-use plastic bottles per annum, many of which end up in the ocean or landfill.

Companies like Coca-Cola - that thrive on being the brand of youthful joy, happiness, and enjoyment - need to enter maturity. It’s time for them to take responsibility for their impact on our shared planet.

That begins with phasing out single-use plastic bottles, and investing in alternatives - which is exactly what we’re calling on Coca-Cola to do in our global petition.

While many of us feel personally responsible for reducing our plastic usage, to tackle the scale of this problem at the speed we need to, the biggest polluters have got to step up and take responsibility too.

It’s why we want a nationwide ban on the bag (come on, Eugenie!), and it’s why corporations like Coca-Cola need to get off the hard stuff.

Click here to sign the petition



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