…one plastic bag at a time.
By Emily Norman
Plastic bags and rubbish are the last thing people should find along the scenic Castlepoint coastline, but for residents it’s a sad reality.
So, in a bid to leave footprints instead of rubbish along the beach, the Castlepoint Store has phased out plastic bags in favour of paper ones.
But that’s just the start, with more environmentally friendly initiatives on the horizon.
Storeowners Paula and Joe Vermeer say that plastic bags are a thing of the past for the shop, with paper bags available to purchase if customers needed them.
“I just got sick of buying plastic bags,” Paula said.
“It seemed ridiculous to be buying in all these plastic bags to give to people, and then end up seeing half of it on the beach anyway or along the rocks.
“We’re always cleaning up out there and we just feel we can’t live somewhere like this and keep putting out more plastic.”
The Vermeers took over ownership of the Castlepoint store in November 2015 after it closed down for about six months.
Though they admit they had to hit the ground running, they say they have now found their footing, and are shaking things up for the better.
“We stopped buying the new plastic bags ages ago, and we tried the biodegradable bags but it doesn’t matter – once it’s in the sea, it’s still going to take a long time to break down,” Paula said.
“Joe had me on the other day and said I was turning into a hippie, but I’m not.
“I just don’t want to buy plastic bags anymore and I don’t have to. I just think it’s really silly.”
Joe, a keen surfer who grew up in Mataikona, said he had seen the effects of environmental negligence overseas, and did not want the same thing to happen here.
“I’ve done a bit of touring, and in Indonesia the high tide line is just thick with rubbish – and I don’t mean the odd bit – you actually can’t walk through it.
“When you see that, you appreciate the fact that every little bit makes a difference.”
The store also uses biodegradable cups and burger cases, and are even doing away with plastic packaging of products like dishwashing liquid.
“We’ve got jars now for the dishwashing liquid,” Paula said.
“Most people don’t need too much so I just fill up the jars and people can return them for a refund when they’ve used it all, it’s great.”
She said there were a lot of things they wanted to change in order to promote a healthy coastline at the tourist hotspot, and they were “quite determined” to make the changes.
“But there’s so much that we can’t do anything about when you’re running a shop like this, you know,” Paula said.
“You’ve got your chippie packets, cans of drink, and there’s not a lot you can do about that.
“But if we can do something, anything, it’s got to be better than nothing.”
Masterton District Councillor Chris Peterson said he “really applauded” the storeowners’ initiative.
“Sooner or later we’re going to have to start treating our planet differently and what they’re doing is a magnificent step in the right direction.
“It’s like Lao Tzu’s saying, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”
The Vermeers said they were “blown away” by the support of the paper bag initiative after they posted about it on the store’s Facebook page.
Their post was shared more than 100 times and received more than 1500 likes.
They will be selling the paper bags for 20 cents each.