A plethora of plastic

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Finally there is progress on single-use plastic supermarket bags.

Quite how it has taken so long and why the issue has been so contentious will likely baffle future generations as it has many current proponents of the ban.

For these people, the issue has been simple. The world cannot sustain the sheer volume of plastic being produced and  often almost instantly  discarded to spend the rest of its unnatural and centuries-long life clogging up landfills and waterways, ensnaring birds and marine life, filling their bellies and potentially contaminating the food chain.

And for what? So humans can use plastic bags once for our supermarket shopping — twice if we need a rubbish bin liner or nappy bag?

They are certainly convenient, but given the resources and energy required to produce the products for such limited use, they are surely one of the most shameful examples of our wasteful, polluting, selfish, short-term thinking society.

In terms of price and durability, they are no doubt a brilliant invention: free to a good home with every shop and fit for purpose for centuries. In terms of showcasing humanity’s overall brilliance, they are surely among our biggest failures.

The world will never be rid of plastic, but anything that can be done to reduce its production and environmental footprint must be commended.

It is pleasing then that the major supermarket chains have listened to consumers and have said they will stop using single-use plastic carrier bags from the end of next year.

For those pushing for change that still seems a long way off given it is estimated New Zealanders churn through well over a billion of the bags each year.

But there are many consumers who will wonder how they can survive without the products. It is sensible then to allow some time for the changes to occur, for  environmentally friendly products to be rolled out,  and for people to adapt their attitudes and actions. Soon, it will be standard practice to stash fabric bags in the back of the car, handbags, briefcases and backpacks. If "caught short", there should be a paper or compostable bag available at the supermarket.

People will adapt and are already adapting. There has been a growing unease about our environmental footprint, about whether our tidy Kiwi and clean green images stand up to scrutiny.

"Green" thinking — whether it be food safety, product traceability or environmental impact — is becoming more mainstream.

Of course there is a plethora of other plastic products — and bags —  in circulation, including in supermarkets. Recycling can be worthwhile, but not if it simply means dumping our products on countries less able to deal with the problem or creating more products that create more waste. Reduction is the key. It will be an ongoing challenge to determine which products really are essential and which can be replaced with kinder options.For now, some of our biggest businesses are taking an important first step. That leadership is worth acknowledging.


use as fire starters would get rid of this and other plastic... only when a green visits