The government will spend $1.2 million on a plastic bag recycling initiative, but it’s been told it needs to go further and introduce a compulsory charge for plastic bags at point of sale.

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) yesterday voted in favour of requesting the government impose a levy on plastic shopping bags.

The collection of councils welcomed the government’s announcement a day earlier that it would partner with the retail sector and packaging industry to recycle thousands of tonnes of plastics. But LGNZ’s view was a charge for plastic bags would deter people from using them and reduce the number that needed to be produced.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said the government’s initiative would see thousands of tonnes of soft plastics such as shopping bags, bread bags, frozen food bags and food wrap recycled. These types of plastic are not accepted by kerbside recycling services. The initiative will see $700,000 go to The Packaging Forum to fund a trial of a drop-off recycling service at Pak’nSave, New World, Countdown and The Warehouse stores across Auckland. Astron Plastics Group will be granted $510,000 to establish a new dry-cleaning facility in Auckland to recycle soft plastics.

“This approach has proved successful in Australia through the Coles Group and saved thousands of tonnes of plastic going to landfill. The longer-term objective of this initiative would be for 70 per cent of New Zealanders to have access to a drop-off facility for soft plastics within 20 kilometres of their home,” Dr Smith said.

“This is a more sensible approach than a ban or a compulsory levy on just plastic shopping bags. These bags make up only 0.2 per cent of waste going to landfill, and only 10 per cent of plastic waste. Nor can a ban or a compulsory levy be justified when plastic shopping bags only make up 1.5 per cent of the litter items in nationwide litter surveys.”

Let us know what you think of LGNZ’s push for a compulsory charge for plastic bags on our Facebook page.