From the use of the silver fern frond as the logo for its national rugby team to its agricultural based economy, New Zealand has always been a country with a keen focus on its natural environment. Now, New Zealand has targeted the use of single-use plastic bags as an unnecessary evil that it plans to eradicate throughout the country.
Announced by its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday, 10 August 2018, New Zealand intends to phase-out single-use plastic bags over the next year with retailers given six months to stop providing lightweight plastic bags or be slapped with fines up to NZ$100,000 (SGD$89,153.53).
“Every year in New Zealand, we use hundred 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.”
Ardern cited a petition signed by 65,000 New Zealanders as one of the motivations for the ban.
“It’s the biggest single subject schoolchildren write to me about,” she added.
Two of New Zealand’s largest supermarket chains and several major retailers have confirmed their commitment to get rid of single-use bags by the end of 2018. New Zealanders are responsible for more urban waste than most of the countries in the developed workd with 750 million plastic shopping bags used every year. That’s equivalent to 154 plastic bags per person every year. More than 40 countries around the world have banned plastic bags with Bangladesh the first to do so in 2002 and South Africa following the next year.
Read more about how plastics are polluting our oceans in our November Muck Diving issue of Asian Diver (Issue 3 Volume 151).