Community encouraged to go plastic free

Let’s go plastic-free in Gisborne

Let’s go plastic-free in Gisborne

In training for the environment: Flag the bag sewing bee organisers, Jo Shand and Katy Wallace, preparing for the 24 hour ‘bag-a-thon’ as part of Plastic- Free July. Picture by Liam Clayton


WE live in a plastic world.

From bags, to bottles, to toothbrushes, plastics are everywhere, even in our clothing.

Plastic has been mass-produced since the 1950s and production is only increasing.

More than nine billion metric tonnes of plastic waste is generated each year and close to eight million tonnes of this is dumped into the marine environment.

Marine experts estimate the amount of plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish by 2050.To stem this rising tide of plastics, Plastic Bag-Free Tairawhiti is on a mission to see Gisborne become plastic- free and is encouraging the community to get involved with the Plastic-Free July challenge.

The challenge is quite simple, attempt to refuse single-use plastic during July.

Started in 2011 in Western Australia, the campaign has grown into a global movement of millions of participants across 159 countries.

Plastic Bag-Free Tairawhiti founder Dr Nicky Solomon said the Gisborne group began following a chat over a cup of coffee in 2016.

“We initially decided we would just do a little bit here and there as time allowed.

“But we quickly gathered a great bunch of energetic people and realised this idea had enormous potential.

“From the outset we experienced a great deal of support from the Gisborne District Council and from local businesses including supermarkets, and from the community.

“The issue we face now with China no longer taking plastic for recycling is also adding weight to the need for us to minimise our plastic use.”

Nearly all of the plastic we use is made from non-renewable oil or gas.

The Ministry for the Environment estimates that in New Zealand we send 200,000 tonnes of plastic to landfill each year — half of which is plastic packaging — and much of that packaging is produced to be used once and then discarded. Gisborne has no soft-plastic recycling scheme, so all soft plastic used is deposited in landfills which is a ‘best case scenario’ says Dr Solomon.

“When plastics are not disposed of appropriately they end up littering waterways, harming our environment and killing animals.

“This is an issue that affects all of us, and will affect those generations that come after us — we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to reduce our society’s reliance on single-use plastic.”

Another of the Plastic Bag-Free Tairawhiti team approached businesses at Ballance Village to support Plastic- Free July.

Ro Darrall, owner and operator of bespoke store Retro, talked with every shop in the Village and was pleased with the response.

“I thought having the entire Village supporting this would be great.

“There are already a number of shops who have made the change to reducing plastic usage and this is an opportunity for businesses and consumers to work together in shifting unhelpful habits.

“It is really a simple but important step, so to get the majority of business owners on board is encouraging.”

The Village Butchery owner Fletcher Pickett trialed giving people an option to wrap their meat in paper packaging in 2016 as part of the first Plastic-Free July.

“It’s difficult to omit plastics from our operation as we need to ensure there is no spill or leak, but we made it work and the response was so positive we decided to make it permanent.

“Approximately 70 percent of our customers now no longer use plastic bags and we estimate a reduction of more than 5000 bags per month.

“This is just in our little store, so imagine if more Gisborne businesses took up the challenge.”

Mr Pickett says paper is more expensive and takes some time to ‘get your head around’ but most customers are happy to absorb a minimal cost and they are now looking for other ways to further reduce plastic usage.

“We’ve just begun to change processes in the back room and are now getting carcasses ‘on the hook’, which means they no longer come as pieces and this drastically reduces further plastic waste.”

Dr Solomon says this shift in both business and consumer thinking is a positive step.

“Over the past two years public awareness and understanding of the issue of single-use plastic has really grown. “Although there are real challenges to avoiding single-use plastic in our busy lives, more and more people are aware of the issue and are trying to make changes in their day-to-day lives.

“Businesses are becoming more aware of consumer concern and are trying to address the issue, as evidenced by Countdown’s recent move towards becoming plastic-bag-free.”

She said Plastic Free July is an opportunity to raise awareness about the issue of single-use plastics, and to encourage people to consider using July to try out some small changes, even if they are only changes they adopt for the month.

“People should think about what changes they can make for July.

“Individuals and businesses can formally sign up for the challenge, or simply informally commit to making a change. A great way to start is to avoid the big four problem plastics for the month. These are single-use plastic bags, single-use plastic bottles, plastic straws and plastic coffee cup lids.”

Those interested in participating can visit the website www.plasticfreejuly.org or contact the Plastic Bag-Free Tairawhiti group via their Facebook page for upcoming events.

WE live in a plastic world.

From bags, to bottles, to toothbrushes, plastics are everywhere, even in our clothing.

Plastic has been mass-produced since the 1950s and production is only increasing.

More than nine billion metric tonnes of plastic waste is generated each year and close to eight million tonnes of this is dumped into the marine environment.

Marine experts estimate the amount of plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish by 2050.To stem this rising tide of plastics, Plastic Bag-Free Tairawhiti is on a mission to see Gisborne become plastic- free and is encouraging the community to get involved with the Plastic-Free July challenge.

The challenge is quite simple, attempt to refuse single-use plastic during July.

Started in 2011 in Western Australia, the campaign has grown into a global movement of millions of participants across 159 countries.

Plastic Bag-Free Tairawhiti founder Dr Nicky Solomon said the Gisborne group began following a chat over a cup of coffee in 2016.

“We initially decided we would just do a little bit here and there as time allowed.

“But we quickly gathered a great bunch of energetic people and realised this idea had enormous potential.

“From the outset we experienced a great deal of support from the Gisborne District Council and from local businesses including supermarkets, and from the community.

“The issue we face now with China no longer taking plastic for recycling is also adding weight to the need for us to minimise our plastic use.”

Nearly all of the plastic we use is made from non-renewable oil or gas.

The Ministry for the Environment estimates that in New Zealand we send 200,000 tonnes of plastic to landfill each year — half of which is plastic packaging — and much of that packaging is produced to be used once and then discarded. Gisborne has no soft-plastic recycling scheme, so all soft plastic used is deposited in landfills which is a ‘best case scenario’ says Dr Solomon.

“When plastics are not disposed of appropriately they end up littering waterways, harming our environment and killing animals.

“This is an issue that affects all of us, and will affect those generations that come after us — we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to reduce our society’s reliance on single-use plastic.”

Another of the Plastic Bag-Free Tairawhiti team approached businesses at Ballance Village to support Plastic- Free July.

Ro Darrall, owner and operator of bespoke store Retro, talked with every shop in the Village and was pleased with the response.

“I thought having the entire Village supporting this would be great.

“There are already a number of shops who have made the change to reducing plastic usage and this is an opportunity for businesses and consumers to work together in shifting unhelpful habits.

“It is really a simple but important step, so to get the majority of business owners on board is encouraging.”

The Village Butchery owner Fletcher Pickett trialed giving people an option to wrap their meat in paper packaging in 2016 as part of the first Plastic-Free July.

“It’s difficult to omit plastics from our operation as we need to ensure there is no spill or leak, but we made it work and the response was so positive we decided to make it permanent.

“Approximately 70 percent of our customers now no longer use plastic bags and we estimate a reduction of more than 5000 bags per month.

“This is just in our little store, so imagine if more Gisborne businesses took up the challenge.”

Mr Pickett says paper is more expensive and takes some time to ‘get your head around’ but most customers are happy to absorb a minimal cost and they are now looking for other ways to further reduce plastic usage.

“We’ve just begun to change processes in the back room and are now getting carcasses ‘on the hook’, which means they no longer come as pieces and this drastically reduces further plastic waste.”

Dr Solomon says this shift in both business and consumer thinking is a positive step.

“Over the past two years public awareness and understanding of the issue of single-use plastic has really grown. “Although there are real challenges to avoiding single-use plastic in our busy lives, more and more people are aware of the issue and are trying to make changes in their day-to-day lives.

“Businesses are becoming more aware of consumer concern and are trying to address the issue, as evidenced by Countdown’s recent move towards becoming plastic-bag-free.”

She said Plastic Free July is an opportunity to raise awareness about the issue of single-use plastics, and to encourage people to consider using July to try out some small changes, even if they are only changes they adopt for the month.

“People should think about what changes they can make for July.

“Individuals and businesses can formally sign up for the challenge, or simply informally commit to making a change. A great way to start is to avoid the big four problem plastics for the month. These are single-use plastic bags, single-use plastic bottles, plastic straws and plastic coffee cup lids.”

Those interested in participating can visit the website www.plasticfreejuly.org or contact the Plastic Bag-Free Tairawhiti group via their Facebook page for upcoming events.

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