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Public urged to keep up plastics pressure

An environmentalist has urged the public to pressure the Government to stick to its green promise to ban single-use plastic such as straws.

The Progressive Labour Party pledged to eliminate single-use plastics by 2022 in the Throne Speech last month.

However, Mr Starling warned that the Government may not carry through with its promise if the public does not show enough interest in the issue.

He said: “There's a risk of any policy not going through if the Government feels that people aren't advocating for it.

“If no one advocates for it now, if people just sit back, then the Government will too.

“It will be moved to the back burner and there's a risk of it not happening.”

Mr Starling, the former executive director of environmental charity Greenrock, added: “The Government will act on what is being demanded. If it can be demonstrated or communicated to the Government that it is popular and people want it quicker, they are going to expedite that.

“If no one is talking about or advocating for action on climate change, they aren't going to take action.

“If you want, advocate. You can demonstrate, we are a democracy still. There's nothing stopping you from doing a peaceful protest, or even at the next Throne Speech to stand quietly holding a sign that advocates for climate change.

“The more you see people calling for it in the media, the more civil society is calling for it, the more environmental organisations and scientists are pointing it out, the more likely it is to be expedited.”

The Government said its Throne Speech pledge would help protect the oceans and reduce the impact of climate change.

The speech added: “To this end, single-use plastics will be eliminated by 2022 and the intervening years will be spent educating the community about recycling and reusable items and encouraging greater sensitivity to the ocean and its importance to our lives.”

A charge on single-use plastics will be levied in the next two years.

Some Hamilton businesses have already taken action on plastics, including Makin' Waves, which has stopped importing plastic bags, and Nonna's Kitchen, which charges for bags and donates the cash to a tree-planting scheme.

Department store Gibbons is giving away free reusable and recyclable carrier bags until the end of January.

The firm will start to charge $1 for them, with part of the cash going to charity, to try to cut the use of plastic bags.

Mr Starling said introducing charges for bags could have economic benefits for less well off families.

He said: “It can actually lead to cost savings for them if they bring their own bags. Ten cents may not be much, but it adds up over time.

“Right now you are paying for your bags. You already are paying, you just don't have the option not to pay.

“The companies and retail stores are purchasing the bags for you and putting the cost of the bags into all of their prices to cover the costs, so right now you don't have the option.”

Green plea: Jonathan Starling (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published December 31, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated December 31, 2018 at 7:40 am)

Public urged to keep up plastics pressure

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