Sue Craig-Stewart has bold ideas about a plastic bag free Nelson. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Nelson ‘should be first’ to be plastic bag free

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Sue Craig-Stewart has owned the same reusable shopping bags for almost all her life.
Even when she moved to New Zealand she brought them with her, all the way from England.

She started her mission 30 years ago when she was living in Miami beach and noticed how every morning the council would rake the sand for rubbish so people didn’t have to sunbathe amid discarded plastic bags.

“I started thinking maybe they should just leave it so people would see the damage that was being done and maybe start being more accountable.”

Since then she has never used plastic bags for shopping. Sometimes she will reuse them by washing them out. Now, after living in New Zealand, she thinks it is time for a more radical shift in people’s plastic bag use.

“If we can’t go plastic bag free in New Zealand, then that’s pathetic,” she says. “And Nelson could lead that charge.”

Recycling has increased by 28 per cent since the introduction of new Tasman District and Nelson city recycling bins in 2015.

The total amount of recycling material diverted from landfills though council kerbside recycling services in Nelson and Tasman is now 6500 tonnes, compared to 5656 recorded in 2010.

However, this is against the backdrop of a general increase in waste.

Sue says that the advent of soft plastic recycling at supermarkets sends the wrong message as it encourages people to keep using them.

She also thinks that supermarkets putting a 10 to 20c levy on plastic bags is not enough to halt their use.

Despite Countdown and New World saying they will phase out plastic bags, Sue thinks other stores also need to step up and follow suit.

She says that companies are underestimating the value that branded hessian bags can have.

“You could even make that a loyalty scheme where buyers get a discount for bringing in the shop’s bag.”

However, Sue acknowledges that she is fighting against habit, which is hard to change.

“But it’s not rocket science, after unloading the shopping you just make sure you put your bags back in the car.”

She says plastic bags are “just the tip of the iceberg” and says there is another huge challenge in reducing the amount of plastic used in food packaging.