All throughout NZ there is plastic stockpiling due to China closing it's doors to anymore plastic waste from other countries. New Zealand alone sent over 41 million kg of waste overseas last year, with 15 million of this going to China as plastic waste.
8 million tonne of plastic was dumped last year in landfill, which is a big risk to our environment due to the chemicals in the plastic and also the animals that eat the plastic when they mistake it for food. A lot of the plastic from landfills makes its way into rivers and streams, which then flows out into the oceans and is consumed by sea-life.
People and groups that are involved in the growing plastic pollution in NZ are people such as producers and consumers. Consumers use it out of conveinence as everywhere you go, everything is plastic. Food is wrapped and stored in it to keep it fresh, they use single use plastic bags to carry things round/from stores and it’s easy and available. Over 1 million plastic bottles are brought every minute in the world, with only around 23% of these being recycled. After using these products most are thrown away, with enough rubbish being thrown away each year to circle the world 4 times, as well as the alarming fact that only 10-13% of all the single-use plastic produced in a year is recycled. Producers are the one of the main contributers to the problem as it is much easier for them to use over glass and paper, as both glass and paper are a lot more likely to break/tear than plastic. Plastic is also a lot cheaper and easier to produce, which means they make more profit from their product than they would if they had to pay more to produce/replace glass and paper. They do have the option of using recycled plastic, but due to the fact the colour of it is a bit cloudy they think that it may put consumers off.
People that are involved
Where is it happening?
Southland, Thames and Huntly are 3 of the places where we can see an increase in plastic waste. This has been happening for a while and China shutting it's doors to the worlds waste has had a detrimental impact on NZ. Huntly at one point had close to 400 tonnes of baled plastic and Southland had around 250 tonnes of baleage wrap from farmers that was meant to be on it's way to Thailand to be recycled. Our stockpiling stations are being likened to the slums of India, a title that our 'clean, green country' doesn't need marring it's name.
Location of Stockpiling/Recycling
Stockpiling has become a problem throughout our country, due to one of our biggest buyers of our waste, China, closing it's gates to the worlds rubbish so they can sort out their own problems. The main locations in NZ that have stockpiles are Raglan, Thames, Huntly, Whanganui and Southland. There is also a recycling centre in Lower Hutt that is trying to recycle as much PET plastic as possible, so that not everything has to be exported or put into landfill. The Raglan beaches are covered in microplastics and they have over 5 tonnes of stockpiled, Thames has a sprawling mess of 4,000 tonnes of waste, at MetroWaste in Huntly there was over 400 tonne of stockpiled plastic, Whanganui is trying to go plastic bag free and Southland has around 100 tonne of plastic and 250 tonne of baleage wrap, as Thailand has also closed itself from taking the wrap off of farmer's hands.
New Zealand's growing waste problem is affecting people in NZ as it is affecting our sustainability as a nation, as well as being a cause for harmful chemicals going into our bodies. Currently we are rated as the 10th worst country for urban waste, which is shocking as we are so small.
Each family of 4 produces around 3 tonnes of rubbish, which demonstrates how much each person is contributing to the world wide problem. Plastic is contaminating our rivers, lakes, oceans and land with it's harmful chemicals as when exposed to the weather in landfills the structure of the plastic releases chemicals into the ground water, which then spreads. This contaminates the water we swim in, the ground we grow produce in and affects the animal life that a lot of us eat.
This means that our future generations won't be able to swim in our lakes and oceans that we take so much pride in and they won't be able to eat the fish due to the amount of plastic contaminants if we don't start to act on the issue.
By acting on the issue and creating more recycling centres we could start providing more Kiwi's with jobs, which would mean that they would be able to have a good income and a roof over their heads while they help save the next generation's future in the process.
How is it affecting people in NZ?
New Zealand's plastic waste problem is contributing to the big environmental issue that the world is having. The average NZ person generates around 3.68kg of waste each day, which is much higher than a lot of other countries throughout the world. A lot of this rubbish is put into landfills, where it breaks down and the toxins enter the waterways.
These toxins (such as Lead, Cadmium and Mercury) can be quite lethal to an individuals health, and a lot of animals are getting sick from them. Sea-life are greatly affected by plastic pollution, with the toxins soaking into their bodies and plastic being confused for food. When we are eating fish, we are also digesting the many toxins that have made their way into their bodies, so we are basically making ourselves sick because of it.
A lot of sea-life confuse plastic for food, which is leading to way too many premature deaths within the population. It is responsible for killing more than 100,000 sea turtles and birds a year, because of ingestion and entanglement.
How is this affecting the environment?
The Manufacturer of Plastic Packaging
Interviewer:What viewpoint do you have as a Manufacturer on the plastic waste problem in NZ?Manufacturer:As a manafucturer, I have an economic viewpoint.
Interviewer:Why do u believe this?
Manufacturer:I understand that as a manufacturer, I have a significant impact on the growing problem of plastic waste in NZ. However, I am not willing to change my ways as it is much cheaper for me to produce and replace my plastic products than it would be if I used glass or paper. For me as a company, profit is the most important thing, so if I was using products such as glass and paper the cost for me to produce them would be much higher, meaning less profit on the item.Also customers are happy with the product as it is cheap and easy. They are willing to buy it and use the plastic on a constant basis, so if the customers are happy, we as a company are happy. If we were to increase the amount of recycled plastic going into the product the plastic we produce would become cloudy, not clear which is what society demands. This would put people off which would also decrease the profit that we make.We know the type of plastic we are using can’t be recycled and will end up in landfills, but our profit is the most important thing to me and I can’t afford to be spending money on products that customers don’t want. -The Manufacturer of Plastic Packaging
Interviewer:What viewpoint do you have as someone from Sustainable Coastlines on the issue of growing plastic waste in NZ?
Sustainable Coastlines:I have an enviromental viewpoint on the issue.
Interviewer:Why do you believe this?
Sustainable Coastlines:I believe that the impact of plastic waste on our environment is very detrimental to us as a nation and to the world as a whole. It is killing sea life and filling up our oceans and it is expected that there will be more plastic (by weight) than fish in our oceans by 2040. It annoys me because NZ always promotes ourselves as a ‘clean green country’ but we do very little to actually recycle our own waste. We used to export our waste to China, but they’ve recently closed their own doors to it so that they could sort out their own plastic waste problem and help their environment. This was a bold but important move for them to make, as they have finally realised that the plastic wasn’t worth the damage to the environment, especially as the contaminated plastic was bringing waste to their shores and then blowing away into the environment.I personally think that to become a cleaner nation and help the environment we need to reduce the amount of plastic we use, as recycling, a convenient option for everyone is obviously not working as it should be. Plastic isn’t biodegradable and at the rate we are going we are going to be killing our environment through ignorance and carelessness.It’s time for us to start reducing our plastic, even if it is inconvenient to us. It will save us in the future. -Sustainable Coastlines
Strength- Recycling what was previously thought to be an unrecyclable product. This is an important strength as they are finding out ways to reduce the amount of plastic that was previously deemed unrecyclable and turn it into PlastiPhalt, an alternative to normal asphalt. They are using old oil containers to make the PlastiPhalt which is decreasing the amount of plastic entering our environment, reducing the plastic pollution little bit by little bit. "FH environmental and sustainability manager Sophie Kennedy said the containers previously went to landfill because oil contamination means they cannot be recycled."
Strength- Reusable- As well as being reasonably hardy (it is currently being used at Christchurch International Airport where the vehicles weigh over 60 tonnes) it is also able to be reused and put down again after it has done it's time, so it won't be wasted. "The surface should last about 15 years, and after that it can be recovered and recycled again." This helps the environment as it means there won't be waste leftover from the product once it has worn out.
Course of Action:
No. 1 - PlastiPhalt Strengths
Weakness- Contaminants- After the product has been exposed to the elements, contaminants may run off the PlastiPhalt and into our waterways, where the toxins are going to do the same sort of damage as what they would if they were put into landfill. "Contaminants leached from roading materials enter waterways and soil during and immediately after rain, with contaminant levels generally being greatest in the initial runoff and following dry periods without rainfall." This shows that there would still be affects the same as what we would get if the product went to landfill, meaning it is still harmful.
Weakness- Longevity- PlastiPhalt only lasts for around 15 years compared to normal asphalt which has an average of 25-30 years if it is well kept. This means that more money is going to have to be spent on relaying it, which could create an economic problem. Normal asphalt can last up to 20 years, so the economic problem could provide a blockade to the environmental issue of sending it to landfill.
Weaknesses of Plastiphalt
Strength- Reducing the risk - this is a more important strength as with a ban on plastic bags you are reducing the risk of plastic bags getting out into our environment where they aren't biodegradable and a risk to our animals as they are mistaken for food and eaten, which can lead to a very slow, painful death for that animal.
This plastic pollution is a major cause for the death of our wildlife, with around 180 species of marine wildlife consuming plastic. The plastic gets tangle in their gut, meaning they can't digest it and as they think they're full they don't eat anymore.
Strength- Less cost- Businesses won't have to pay to include bags in their sales for the customers, as well as less tax money going towards collecting litter. This means that this can be invested into other problems that need financial security. Annually, shoppers would save between $18-$30, which when factored into the economy is quite a large sum. Businesses would be encouraged to save that amount of money, which would slowly decrease the amount of plastic being sold in our community.
Course of Action:
No. 2 - Banning Plastic Bags- Strengths
Weakness- Less jobs- Plastic bag manufacturers will lay off jobs as there won't be a need for their product anymore. This means there will be more people within our society that will be struggling to find jobs which would lead to a negative impact throughout the community as people wouldn't be able to fund money to pay for their everyday life. Some would have to re-train in other jobs so they could earn money, which could be even more detrimental due to the costs.
Weakness- Cost for consumers - Consumers will now have to pay for re-usable bags when they go shopping, which could affect sales at certain shops and decrease the income that the business is getting. These costs will be upfront if you haven't brought your own bags from home and can range from $1 upwards, meaning that businesses might be saving money, but the consumers are not.
Plastic Bags- Weaknesses
For me at this point in time, the most effective course of action is the ban on plastic bags. I think this as it is reducing the risk and amount of rubbish going into our landfills and environments, which is also lessening the risk of animals consuming it and harmful toxins leaking out of the plastic structure. Businesses will also make more profit as they won't have to provide their customers with bags for the products/items they're buying. There are weaknesses of course, such as people losing their jobs and consumers having to buy their own bags, but I feel that in the long run, the re-usable bagswill cost the consumers less and will encourage less waste, and people looking for jobs might possibly be able to land positions in recycling companies, as I feel an action like this will lead to more drastic solutions, such as opening up more recycling centres.
I feel the other Course of Action, PlastiPhalt, isn't as effective as banning plastic bags as the longevity of the product isn't as long as what normal asphalt is at only 15 years and the economic problem of having to pull it up and re-lay it could provide a bit of struggle. However, the most important weakness to me of the Plastiphalt is the run-off of toxins that could occur. It would provide the same effect on the environment and it's living organisms that putting the plastic in landfill would, so until there is some more thorough testing done, I feel that reduce rather than recycle is the way to go. It does have some major benefits though, that with more testing it could become more of a sought out product. It is using contaminated products which are otherwise not recyclable, as well as being a product that is re-usable.
Course of Action
My Opinion- Continued
To me, reduce is the way to go at this point in time as we are already producing too much plastic for our world to cope with. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our waters (by weight) than there will be fish if our society doesn't stop to consider the damage.
Animals are dying because of plastic pollution. They're eating it thinking it is healthy, and then dying later on because it gets twisted in their gut and they think that they're full. They are also getting tangled in waste throughout their environment, which limits their ability to getting away meaning they become easier prey.
Economically banning plastic bags would provide an income for people in businesses, meaning they will have more money to work with and possibly job opportunities which could help plastic workers that get laid off.
It is also more beneficial to the environment as with less waste there is less harm, whereas the PlastiPhalt at this point in time is still proving that there are chemical run offs on the surface, releasing harmful toxins into the environment that could kill the surrounding area.