Locals invited to go on ‘plastic safari’ at landfill

4 July 2018

Following a positive public response for the inaugural roll-out in 2017, Wellington City Council’s ‘Bags in the Wild’ landfill tour is back again for this year’s Plastic Free July.

Waste at the landfill.

The city’s Southern Landfill is inviting interested locals and community groups to book a tour at its Happy Valley premises to see first-hand the effects of discarded plastics.

Waste Minimisation Manager Meagan Miller promises the experience will be “suitably frightening”.

“In essence, it’s a safari, but instead of animals in the wild, you’ll get to see plastics that have sat amongst surrounding native bush since the 1970s.”

Systems are in place to try to contain flying litter, but Miller says that the combination of lightweight single-use plastic bags and other plastics, combined with Wellington’s iconic winds, means it is difficult to stop all plastics escaping the landfill.

When they get into the surrounding environment they can threaten native birds such as pukeko and kereru, as well as polluting nearby streams.

“We are fairly confident that no Wellingtonian would be happy knowing this is what is happening as a result of their everyday purchases and life choices. We hope these tours will help to educate and influence future life choices,” adds Miller.

Currently, 34,449 tonnes of plastics enter the region’s three landfills, which equates to about 69kg of unrecyclable plastics per person every year.

New Zealanders use approximately 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.

Last year, Wellington Mayor Justin Lester led a campaign where the country’s mayors called on the government to impose a levy on single-use plastic bags in an attempt to reduce their use.

“Retailers are now coming on board and getting rid of single-use plastic bags, but the meaningful effort will come from people deciding to reduce their own use of them,” says the Mayor.

“We hope these ‘Bags in the Wild’ tours will open people’s eyes to where their waste goes.”

Council also had a successful partnership with Sustainable Coastlines this year, in ridding the waterfront bars and restaurants of single-use plastic straws in the start of an on-going campaign.

The ‘Bags in the Wild’ tour is suitable for adults and supervised children, including school groups and community groups.

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