Introduction

Our oceans and marine wildlife need protecting … from us! Most marine debris is made up of plastic materials and nearly 80% of that debris comes from the land. Those convenient thin plastic bags are the second most common form of litter, after cigarette butts.

Date:  30 May 2013

DOC Ranger, Inger Perkins with New World reusable bags for World Oceans Day.
DOC Ranger, Inger Perkins with New World reusable bags for World Oceans Day

Our oceans and marine wildlife need protecting … from us!

Some of our rubbish, including plastic bags, is washing and blowing into the sea and killing seabirds, marine mammals, turtles and fish.  If you get into the habit of using reusable shopping bags at Hokitika’s New World next week, you can go into a prize draw and, if you are “caught being sustainable” with your reusable bag, there will be spot prizes too!

Most marine debris is made up of plastic materials and nearly 80% of that debris comes from the land.  Those convenient thin plastic bags are the second most common form of litter, after cigarette butts.   Plastic bottles and packaging are not far behind and contribute to the vast amounts of plastic litter at sea.  On average, 46,000 pieces of plastic litter are floating on every square mile of ocean and more are floating within the water or sitting on the ocean floor.

DOC Ranger, Inger Perkins says: “these facts and figures have come from organisations like the United Nations Environment Programme.  What can we do about such a huge problem?  There are two key things we can all do: Reduce and Recycle."

One billion plastic bags are used in New Zealand every year.  That’s nearly one bag per person every day of the year.  “If we started using and remembering our reusable bags, we could make quite a dent in that number.”

Inger emphasised her key message: “It is essential that plastic is not allowed to escape onto the land, where it can block drains, trap birds and even kill stock, and from there it continues its relentless journey, escaping into rivers, the coast and the oceans."

“It is estimated that over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles are killed every year by ingestion of, or entanglement in, plastic debris.”

“By reducing the number of plastic bags and the amount of plastic packaging we use, and by dropping those that we do use into the recycling collection, we all have the opportunity to make a difference – the power to protect the ocean.”

Owner/Managers Gary and Robyn Lee at New World Hokitika are keen to see the use of reusable shopping bags increase.  “New World gave away thousands in its recent nationwide Pams promotion.  All we need to do now is for everyone to remember to use them and we can reduce the number of thin plastic bags that escape into our environment”, Gary said. 

Handy tips from Wastenet Southland are to keep the reusable bags in the car and return them there straight after use.  Pop your shopping list into a bag to help you remember both!  And why not carry a compact bag for impulse shopping?

New World in Hokitika is going to reward users of reusable bags during the week 3-9 June, which includes both World Environment Day and World Oceans Day.  If you are using your reusable bag that week, you can go in the draw to win a $100 grocery voucher and there will be spot prizes too.  Gary added “to encourage even more use, reusable bags will be half price for the whole week.”

Robyn said “the check-out staff are there to help – they’ll pack your reusable bags for you, and if you’ve left it in the car, they’ll wait while you get it”.

More information will be available in the New World store during the week and entries into a colouring competition can be dropped into the store for the chance to win some prizes too.   DOC Ranger, Sue Asplin, has designed the art work which is suitable for children up to 12 years to colour.

It’s hard to break a habit, but when you break the plastic bag habit, you will be making a difference.  As WWF Founder, Sir Peter Scott said "We shan't save all we should like to, but we shall save a great deal more than if we had never tried." 

Contact

Inger Perkins
DOC Community Relations Ranger, Hokitika
Email: iperkins@doc.govt.nz
Phone: +63 3 756 9148

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