The initiative – the brainchild of the Council – is supported by the market and Boomerang Bags, as well as local schoolchildren. Market-goers will be able to visit the Council’s stall between 8am and 12 noon to pick up a bag they can use on the day, and future visits to the market.
“Every year, New Zealand uses 1.6 billion plastic bags, and roughly 9000 tonnes of plastic waste goes into Wellington’s landfill,” says Wellington City Councillor Iona Pannett. “This is one of the ways in which the Council is helping to reduce the number of bags going to landfill.”
The Council’s new plastic bag free ambassadors, 10-year-olds Zack and Levi from Island Bay School, will also be at the stall handing out reusable bags. “There is a big problem with shops over-using plastic bags. There are really cool animals dying because of them,” says Levi.
Zack adds: “We observed 110 people came out of Island Bay New World carrying approximately 206 plastic bags in total. All this in half an hour. That is 3030 people a day with an estimate of 6180 plastic bags. That is a lot of plastic bags. Imagine all that every day – it would total 43,260 plastic bags in a week”.
These efforts are a part of a wider nationwide effort to lobby Central Government on the issue of the plastic bag levy. Earlier this week, a letter signed by over 90 percent of New Zealand mayors was sent to the Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith.
Market organiser Fraser Ebbett says it can be a challenge trying to get vendors to go plastic free overnight, and that “collaborating with the Council and community to provide the option of reusable bags is a step in the right direction”.
Cr Pannett says she hopes the model will result in more markets around the city working with the Council to become plastic bag free.
Every week, an estimated 10,000 people visit the markets outside Te Papa for fresh produce, speciality items, street food and coffee.
The bags for distribution are donated by Boomerang Bags and staff from Wellington City Council who have been sewing bags for the event as part of their plastic-free July campaign.