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Mourners urged to not adorn NZ graves with plastic as environment suffers

By Nita Blake-Persen | 27 Jul 2019 12:00


The days of using plastic flowers to decorate graves and memorials could be numbered, with mourners being urged to consider their long-lasting impacts.

New research out this week shows the equivalent of a truck-load of plastic has been dumped into the ocean every 38 seconds for the past 10 years.

While much of that comes from packaging or food, bits of plastic flowers, flags, balloons and other momentos used to mark graves are also ending up amongst the waste.

And as pressure to steer clear of plastics in all aspects of life mounts, environmental groups say we need to think about plastic in death too.

Sustainable Coastlines spokesman Camden Howitt said while it was a sensitive issue, rethinking the use of plastic on graves was important, as much of the plastic often ended up in waterways, and eventually the ocean.

"These things that we're using to mark our grief and respect our loved ones are actually having an impact on our environment."

He encouraged people to think about quick wearing products - such as paper flowers, or other options that didn't contain dyes or toxins.

"Ideally we'd be using things which are organic - made by nature, used by nature and left to degrade in nature in the same way.

"That's what we do with our loved ones - we put them in the ground so they can return to the earth," he said.

At Auckland's Waikumete Cemetery, there are signs of plastic everywhere.

Titirangi RSA welfare officer Matthew McMillan said while the staff did an great job maintaining the cemetery, plastic flowers often broke in wild weather and created issues.

"They just jam everything up, the people looking after the graves here, they actually get all caught up into our gear.

He said most of the waste ended up in streams around the cemetery - and then onto the Waitemata Harbour.

Mr McMillan said while there were issues around affordability of fresh flowers - and challenges with people not being able to replace them on a regular basis - he hoped people would make the switch to real flowers.

Auckland Council manager cemetery services Nikki Marchant-Ludlow said it encouraged people to consider sustainable options for grave adornments.

"We have no particular restrictions on the adornments people use for their loved ones' graves.

"Although we are aware of plastic adornments being used, we would like to ask people to consider what long-term impact it has on the environment," she said.


Source: TVNZ

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