It's time to 'PAC' up those plastic bags and start using reusable bags says a new student group on campus which will be running a Plastic Awareness Campaign (PAC) at the Ara Central City Campus on Thursday and Friday, May 26-27.
Plastic Awareness Campaigner Blythe Southern says the campaign aims to highlight how accustomed we have become to using plastic and to plastic waste and aims to raise awareness at how easily plastic waste can be reduced.
"Plastic is really convenient but it is harmful to the environment. It takes 1000 years to biodegrade and so the harm lasts generation after generation," Southern says.
Animals eat plastic bags, mistaking them for food. Bags also leak toxic chemicals into soil and water systems leading to ongoing pollution. Bags have become so numerous that this can destroy entire ecosystems, including ecosystems that humans depend on.
Southern says the group was formed after they realised that many people were unaware of how much plastic New Zealanders use and how easy it is to reduce plastic consumption.
"New Zealanders use 1.6 billion plastic bags a year which is about 735,000 tonnes. As a country we spend $10.5 million importing plastic. These figures can easily be reduced by replacing plastic shopping bags with reusable cloth bags," she says.
To highlight the extensive use of plastic bags, PAC will be installing plastic installations in the Rakaia Centre Atrium and around the campus.
"Plastic is all around us and we just get used to it and overlook it. We want people to become more conscious about plastic and aware of how they are using it."
The use of plastic is a global problem. Globally 5 trillion plastic bags are used a year, which if placed side-by-side would be sufficient to encircle the world seven times, the campaigners say.
"Plastic now outnumbers the amount of plankton in our oceans by 6:1 and plastic production uses eight percent of global oil production. Something needs to be done and we think New Zealand is a good place to start."
However, there is reason to be optimistic 58 percent of plastic is being recycled.
"It's really positive that a lot of New Zealanders do care about the environment, we just want them to know what else they can do to look after our country and our planet."
PAC will be running a bag amnesty where students can hand in old bags and receive reusable bags in exchange.