Landfill open for ‘Bags in the Wild’ experience

4 July 2017

Wellington’s Southern Landfill is inviting interested locals to book a tour at its Happy Valley premises to see plastic bags ‘in the wild’ as part of the Wellington City Council’s line-up of activities over Plastic Free July.

The image shows a colorful illustration of a turtle made with plastic objects, and reads 'Plastic Free July'.

Inspired by a local school campaign, the tour will take Wellingtonians to the heart of the damage being done by plastic bags to the city’s natural environment.

“This is a key part of educating the public on what actually happens to plastics when they enter the waste stream,” says Councillor Iona Pannett who holds the Infrastructure and Sustainability Portfolio.

Wellington’s Southern Landfill has been highlighted in recent months as struggling to keep plastic bags flying off in the wind into surrounding native bush and waterways.

“The beautiful regenerative native bush in the surrounding valleys is littered with plastic bags,” says Waste Operations Manager Adrian Mitchell, “some of which have been there since the 1970s.”

Those on the tour will be able to see first-hand the immediate effects of soft plastic on the Wellington environment, which is home to native birds such as pukeko and kereru.

“The tour is suitable for adults and supervised children, including school groups and community groups – really anyone who wants to understand exactly what is going on and why we are taking the issue seriously,” adds Adrian.

New Zealanders use 1.6 billion plastic bags a year, and it’s estimated that each one is used for an average of 12 minutes before entering the waste stream. Approximately 9000 tonnes of soft plastic goes to landfill in Wellington every year.

In May, Mayor Justin Lester, supported by the Auckland and Dunedin mayors, launched an open letter to Associate Minister for the Environment, Scott Simpson, asking for a levy on plastic bags or for the power for local councils to regulate supermarkets themselves.

To date, 43 out of 67 New Zealand mayors have signed the open letter, which will remain available to sign for the rest of this week.

A recent survey conducted by WasteMINZ showed 65% of Kiwis would be happy with a levy if the proceeds went to charity.

Tours can be booked by emailing waste.education@wcc.govt.nz or calling 04 383 4442.

This is one of many activities organised by Wellington City Council over Plastic Free July. For more information on events and activities please see wcc.govt.nz/plasticfreejuly.