12 Aug 2018

Plastic bag ban could lead to job losses - union

8:11 am on 12 August 2018

The government's plan to ban single-use plastic bags could result in job losses unless the government steps in, the manufacturing workers' union says.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

On Friday the government pledged to halt the use of the bags by July next year.

E tū industry co-ordinator Ron Angel said it was a good move, but the transition needed to be fair.

"The issue for us is it is a compressed time period and they will need some assistance and there will need to be a discussion around how they are going to transition.

"It would be really terrible to see some of those manufacturers go out of business so there needs to be some fair transition for everybody in this."

Mr Angel said there were a "few hundred" workers directly involved in producing single-use plastic bags but there would be time to find other work for them.

"I think there's enough time for there to be a transition, most manufacturers make a wide range of other products and they will have an opportunity to change their product line and that sort of thing but it is difficult - one day they're making plastic bags for supermarkets and now they're begin told you have to stop within a few months.

"It's not huge numbers but every job loss is a job loss and it affects that worker, their family and their community."

He said the government needed to have a plan for the industry, as the ban would be unlikely to stop with the bags.

"I think the government needs to make some real [concerted] efforts for this transition period, because right now this is the first step but we're always talking about straws, we're always talking about the disposable coffee cups, these things are going to happen - they have to happen - so you have to have a process and a fair way of transitioning."

He said having more factories that focused on recycling plastic would be a good way through the transition, and would help keep workers in jobs.

"There does need to be a change in how we recycle it, how we use it so the [recycled plastics] industry needs to grow.

"It's very hard for people to recycle a plastic bag right now but we need it, and we need government initiatives to help because it's too hard for individual industries to do it."

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