Refill campaign invites people to smash their thirst, not the planet

  • Hon Eugenie Sage

A new campaign #FeelsGoodtoRefill by the Ministry for the Environment, encouraging people to use refillable water bottles and reduce waste, is being launched today.

It follows the release of a report yesterday auditing kerbside rubbish and recycling that estimated that an average household goes through 188 plastic bottles a year with a quarter ending up in a landfill.

“By choosing refilled water over other drinks we can reduce plastic waste and help protect nature, especially the oceans, from plastic pollution,” said Associate Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage.

“Many New Zealanders are keen to do the right thing and help reduce waste. Most people switched to reusable shopping bags well before the ban on single use plastic shopping bags came into effect last July, ‘keep cups’ are increasingly popular. Refilling a water bottle with tasty clean tap water is another easy way to avoid waste, especially plastic waste and stop it polluting nature.”

Research indicates that 1.76 billion plastic containers end up in household kerbside rubbish and recycling each year. The most common of these is the single-use plastic drink bottle.

Of the almost 90,000 pieces of litter audited by citizen scientists to date through Sustainable Coastlines' Litter Intelligence programme, 4,470 of them were single-use plastic bottles, or bottle caps, lids or rings.

“Disposable plastic containers that end up in in streams, parks and the sea cause severe harm, such as the recent death of a juvenile toroa/southern royal albatross. The Department of Conservation reported that it had an entire flattened 500 ml plastic bottle in its stomach.”

“Despite the serious nature of plastic pollution, the campaign intentionally takes a light and humorous approach.  The Ministry wants the message to reach everyone, not just the keen and committed people who are already refusing single-use plastics. Humour is one way New Zealanders connect with serious issues.

The Ministry for the Environment worked with a range of stakeholders on the campaign, including WasteMINZ, Refill NZ, Basketball NZ, Wai Auckland*, Pare Kore, Sustainable Coastlines, and Z Energy which has agreed that customers are welcome to refill drink bottles in their stores.

“Refill NZ has done incredible work in recent years to increase refill stations by recruiting local councils and businesses, and then set about putting over 1,300 of them on a map. This ground work helps make refilling more convenient when people are out and about.”

“I encourage more businesses and councils to sign up new refill stations and support Refill NZ’s mission to make it easier for the public to refill their water bottles,” Eugenie Sage said.

In December, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Professor Juliet Gerrard released Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealand, which called for more behaviour change and educational campaigns on single-use plastics.

“That report also reaffirmed the ambitious waste programme the Government has already committed to, and set out the next steps. Specifically, it underlined the need for the major policy initiatives this Government has underway, such as the design of a New Zealand beverage container return scheme, regulated product stewardship for a number of problem waste streams, and the landfill levy expansion. The Ministry has work underway on a plan to phase out of low value and hard to recycle plastic packaging,” said Eugenie Sage.

“We know how much New Zealanders are concerned about plastic pollution. This is a chance to get behind the campaign by reusing refillable water bottles and sharing this on social media and talking to whanau and friends.”

People could also support Refill NZ and consider making their businesses a water refill station.

The #FeelsGoodtoRefill, pai ana ki te whakakī ano, campaign runs until the end of February and includes a mix of online and in-store advertisements.

A video for the campaign can be viewed here.