Environmentalists welcome crackdown on not-so-fantastic plastics

"Do we need all this crap in the first place?" 

A woman trying to rid Aotearoa of plastic pollution is backing the Government's crackdown on single-use plastics.

Jill Ford, the founder of Refill NZ, told The AM Show she's "very happy" hard-to-recycle plastics like PVC and polystyrene are next in line, following the successful phasing out of single-use plastic shopping bags earlier this year. 

Sunday's announcement was accompanied by the release of a report, Rethinking Plastics, by the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor Juliet Gerrard.

"The report is excellent," Ford told The AM Show on Monday. "It's evidence-based, by scientists - which I always like - and it looks at the whole big picture of what we need to be doing about plastic pollution which is probably - according to the UN - the second-most important environmental issue after climate change."

Refill NZ's campaigning for free water access nationwide, to reduce the sheer number of single-use plastic bottles Kiwis go through every year - 828 million according to Refill NZ, 168 each. 

"You can recycle them, but the bottom line is only about 30 percent of them get recycled. While a container deposit scheme will address some of that, we're still producing the things in the first place when we don't actually need them." 

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage told The AM Show the Government is just getting started at tackling plastic pollution.

"This is only the Government's initial response; we have asked the Ministry for the Environment to come back with a much more comprehensive response early next year, and hope to have some recommendations going to Cabinet within six months."

That will likely include a comprehensive container deposit scheme, but that could be a couple of years away.

"I know that sounds a long time away and people want to go faster, but actually designing a good scheme so that it works [takes time]. 

When I went and looked at the ones in Queensland and Melbourne in Australia, the strong message was to design them well and give enough time for implementation so it's really convenient for consumers to use... You need to design it well." 

Eugenie Sage.
Eugenie Sage. Photo credit: The AM Show

WasteMINZ, which represents the New Zealand waste management industry, says the new measures have been a long time coming.

"It's something the industry has been crying out for, for quite some time, in terms of providing some confidence around consistency of messaging, design and collection," chief executive Janine Brinsdon told Newshub.

"It's really important that there is a really strong, clear plan for the waste industry going forward - that we just don't react to impulsive or non-well researched solutions."

Jill Ford.
Jill Ford. Photo credit: The AM Show

Our Seas Our Future, a non-profit marine conservation group, says the six-month wait for the Ministry for the Environment's recommendations is about as long as they're willing to wait.

"Any longer than that and I think there's a risk that these kinds of initiatives may not end up happening as fast as possible," spokesperson Noel Jhinku told Newshub, welcoming the initiatives already announced.

"This will make a huge difference in how consumers approach single-use plastic products."