Plastic shopping bag tax to help reduce environmental harm

Manawatu residents may be forced to pay a new tax when they go shopping to reduce the environmental harm of plastic bags.

The Palmerston North City Council is proposing a national levy on plastic bags, to discourage its use and help pay for recycling.

The council said the bags were clogging up New Zealand's rivers, oceans and harming marine life.

Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith said: "There's a bit of a myth that recycling plastic bags is really easy and they go to a good home.

"Literally they don't. They're very hard to recycle. It's just something we need to take out of the system."

The idea for a plastic bag levy at the point of sale is being tested at a local government conference this weekend, where councils will vote on the proposal.

It would be the shop keeper's decision whether they passed the added costs onto customers.

"[It] takes about 14 hours to sort a tonne of plastic bags," Mr Smith said.

"It's 180,000 plastic bags to get $50 a tonne. Whereas for clear plastic milk bottles, it's $750 a tonne." 

Marine Biologist Stephanie Borelle said when levies are imposed, plastic bag usage drops, in some cases up to 99 per cent.

However, Enviroment Minister Nick Smith isn't convinced it's a good idea.

"The Government view is that plastic bags are only a small part of the waste stream. Less than a fifth of one per cent, zero point two per cent.

"It seems kind of strange to focus on such a small part of the waste stream, rather than to have programmes that'll work more widely. "

Palmerston North City Council is proposing a national levy on plastic bags to discourage their use Source: 1 NEWS