Welcome to Kaikoura - bring your own shopping bags
By LAURA BASHAM - The Press | Thursday, 13 September 2007

Kaikoura is about to take a major step in a plan to become the first plastic bag-free district in New Zealand.

The proposed project will take three years, and the first move is to give out reusable shopping bags.

The Kaikoura Enhancement Trust has received $5000 from the Canterbury Waste Committee, and has bought 10,000 reusable polypropylene bags.

In November, it will distribute one free to each of Kaikoura's 2000 households and to 1000 school students, with the rest going to businesses, which will sell them for $1.50 each.

The idea has come from Tasmania, which is where Kaikoura District Council environmental development officer Nicole Sherriff comes from.

Sherriff said Coles Bay became Australia's first plastic bag-free town in 2003, when its seven businesses stopped using plastic bags and gave reusable bags to residents.

Kaikoura had more than 70 businesses and already 25 were supporting the project, she said.

The project agreement asks them to undertake three initiatives from the options of: regularly training staff to encourage customers to reduce their need for plastic bags; supply paper bags instead of plastic bags; a 5c or 10c discount to customers for each reusable bag supplied; a 5c or 10c levy on customers on the number of plastic bags used; making the reusable bags available to customers.

The district would not pass a bylaw to ban plastic bags, Sherriff said.

"It's about getting ownership of the idea," Sheriff said.

"We need to get support," she said.

Kaikoura, which has a policy of zero waste to landfill, also has a weekly kerbside recyclable collection.

Most residents put their recyclables out in plastic bags, so an alternative such as introducing wheelie bins was being considered, Sherriff said.

Ideally, in three years Kaikoura would be plastic bag-free, but practically, some shops – such as fish suppliers and butchers – would need to use them, she said.

She hoped other areas would learn from Kaikoura's experience and do likewise. Collingwood, with eight retailers, became New Zealand's first plastic bag-free town in 2005, after a campaign by a group known as the Golden Bay Bag Ladies.

One of them, Alison Ramsay, said they had campaigned hard, but people still liked to use plastic bags for bin liners and other things.

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