It feels good to be part of a movement for positive change. It seems all of a sudden that the end is nigh for single-use plastic bags.

As we make steps towards giving up our 1.6 billion-a-year habit, I'm now remembering to get the reusable bags out of the boot before I do the grocery shopping.

Which suggests a truth about social change: It's easier for most of us to do it when heaps of people are doing it.

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Safety in numbers, our tendency towards conservativeness as a defence against having to change our ways ― whatever the reason, most of us, most of the time, are reluctant to go out on a limb.


The leaders of social change, motivated by knowledge and a strong moral feeling about an issue, are needed to cajole, convince and inspire. There are probably people in New Zealand who haven't used plastic bags for decades who are right now rolling their eyes at the rest of us.

These days there are so many issues, obviously calling on us to do something, with plenty of people willing to stand up and say, "Follow me, this is what needs to be done".

That's politics, we have to sort through all the claims and arguments and consider whether we're going to give them any credence.

Yet, after a process of digestion, arguments can be won, and enough people will agree on an issue that real change can happen, in what appears, like a rush.

Let's hope the Government now seals the deal with regards single-use plastic bags and bans them outright, as many countries have already done.

There would be some brief resistance, but most of us would be okay with it.

The crucial moment in any social transformation surely comes when a majority of us are conscious of doing something we probably shouldn't. We still do it, but there's a nagging in your head.

I've got that feeling when it comes to plastic drink bottles. I still buy them occasionally, mostly on trips, for myself and the kids.

In doing so, I'm contributing to a big problem. Plastic bottles aren't recycled in New Zealand. They have to be shipped to another country ― in Asia somewhere ― to be dealt with in an energy-intensive process.

If there are no takers for the plastic, it goes into our landfills.

Then there's all the bottles which end up in waterways or have to be removed from our streets ― all at cost to councils, and ultimately us as ratepayers.

None of the costs are born by the companies that profit from selling the drinks.

The whole cycle of consumption and disposal is quite simply irrational.

Is being able to purchase a drink at our convenience worth the price we and the environment have to pay?

Would we be any less happy using reusable drink bottles that we could fill with water from public fountains, or if we paid for soft drink from a dispenser, like the big fast-food outlets already have?

Let's ban single-use plastic bags forthright, then move on to the other bad boys of the plastic world.