Plastic pollution a huge problem, and growing

There is a sudden escalation in concern over plastic pollution. This is overdue, because a lot of damage has already been done. As a big part of the problem is floating around out oceans it is not an easy problem to resolve.

Stuff:  Urgent calls for plastics ban, as recycling and composting plants run out of space

Kiwis are conscientiously sending their shopping bags off to be recycled or composted, unaware most are being thrown in landfills.

The crisis in composting and plastic recycling capacity has prompted calls for councils and the Government to step up and do their bit.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has promised a decision on banning plastic bags in the coming month. Industry insiders predicted any ban would be phased in over several years.

This weekend Dr Trisia Farrelly, co-director of Massey University’s Political Ecology Research Centre, called for the government to take the lead and ban harmful plastics. “We have got ourselves into this situation we shouldn’t have got into. There needs to be an international legally binding directive. We have reached a plastics crisis,” she said.

I think that there is no doubt that far too much plastic is used and discarded.

Plastics have been piling up around New Zealand ever since China slapped restrictions on imports of waste products, at the start of the year. The sight of massive stacks has caused alarm around New Zealand: a Huntly resident compared the piles at his local waste station to “the slums of Mumbai”. On the West Coast, Smart Environmental operations supervisor Allan Corbett told the Westport News that “nobody has the answer” to piles building up at sites like the town’s transfer station.

We use far too much plastic and don’t know how to dispose of it safely.

RNZ: Plastic waste major threat to NZ seabirds

Forest and Bird is demanding the government end the production of single-use plastic – pointing to research showing the Tasman Sea is the riskiest place in the world for seabirds for ingesting pieces of plastic.

On current trends it is predicted that by 2050 there will be more pieces of plastic in the oceans than fish.

An international research paper shows a dangerous overlap between this tidal wave of plastic and the abundance of seabirds in the Tasman Sea which is populated by a staggering one third of the world’s seabird species.

Forest and Bird seabird advocate Karen Baird said even a small amount of plastic in the Tasman had been found to have a disproportionate impact compared to other parts of the world where there was nowhere near the same number of birds.

“There are increasing problems with seabirds such as the flesh-footed shearwater in Australia that breeds on Lord Howe Island.

“We know that a third of the turtles found in New Zealand waters have plastics inside them. They’re a bit like seabirds, they have different mechanisms for selecting plastics in that they probably think that it looks like their food.”

This is a pollution problem that we can’t pass off as something the rest of the world has, but we can’t do much about and it won’t affect us much.

We all should drastically rethink our use of plastic. It can be very useful, but far too much of it is used.

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