Single-Use Plastic Bags Have Been Outlawed In New Zealand

If you’re planning on visiting New Zealand, make sure you pack a reusable bag. The country has officially banned single-use plastic bags.

On Friday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the phase-out of single-use plastic bags will take place over the next year in order to “look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation,” the New Zealand Herald said.

“Every year in New Zealand we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags — a mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life,” Ardern said. “Just like climate change, we’re taking meaningful steps to reduce plastics pollution, so we don’t pass this problem to future generations.”

New Zealand retailers will have six months to stop giving out single-use bags. Failure to do so could result in fines of up to NZ $100,000 or $66,000. A petition signed by 65,000 people asked the government to act against plastic pollution, Ardern said. “It’s also the biggest single subject schoolchildren write to me about,” she added.

According to the World Bank, New Zealand is one of the biggest producers of waste per capita in the developed world with 750 million plastic shopping bags, approximately 154 per person, used each year. Each year, almost 9 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans, according to a 2015 study, and that figure could increase by ten-fold in the next 10 years if immediate action is not taken. Studies predict that by 2050, the world’s oceans will have more plastic mass than fish mass.

Simon Bridges, the New Zealand opposition leader, has accused the government of taking action against “low-hanging fruit that won’t make any real difference.”

“Measures introduced by the previous government alongside industry would already have seen a more than 75% reduction in plastic bag use without new regulations and higher costs,” he added. “Kiwis were reducing their plastic usage because it’s the right thing to do. They didn’t need to be told what to do by a government increasingly looking like it thinks it knows best.”

The UN has said that New Zealand will join more than 60 countries that have banned or restricted single-use plastics, including India and the United Kingdom. The UN added that the first country to issue a ban was Bangladesh in 2002, followed by South Africa in 2003, after stating that plastic bags had become so pervasive in the country that they were considered their “national flower.” The government announced they would impose hefty fines or even jail terms if they continued to be used.

RELATED: Kroger To Ditch Plastic Bags By 2025 In Massive Eco-Friendly Effort

In neighboring Australia, where most states and territories have banned single-use plastic bags, the debate recently widened. Australia’s two major supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, announced that they would ban single-use plastic bags nationally and stop providing them by the end of June. After consumer backlash, Coles reassessed and said it would continue handing out plastic bags for free. Yet after the public derided the decision to reconsider, the supermarket once again implemented the ban.

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