In an effort to tackle plastic pollution, New Zealand is committed to banning plastic bags for good.
On Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage announced plans to ban single-use plastic shopping bags, giving retailers a six-month window to phase them out.
With an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic waste entering the global marine environment each year, and New Zealand’s marine Exclusive Economic Zone (a UN-prescribed state sea zone) being 15 times the size of its land mass, the country has a significant part to play in the globe’s plastic pollution cleanup.
“We’re phasing-out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation,” said Ardern in a press statement.
“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, and all of this when there are viable alternatives for consumers and business.”
The ban is not without public support. Just this year 65,000 Kiwis, including Jurassic Park actor Sam Neill, signed a petition calling for the ban on single-use plastic bags, with many of those supporters marching through the streets of Wellington all the way to Parliament, according to the Otago Daily Times.
Our Government is determined to face up to New Zealand’s environmental challenges. That’s why we’re phasing out single-use plastic shopping bags over the next year. This is a change we can make together. To have your say visit https://t.co/2VDNemFOeM 🐢🌏🐬 pic.twitter.com/kTayTOPBSH
— New Zealand Labour (@nzlabour) August 9, 2018
In a press statement, Sage said she was confident New Zealanders, whether in support or not, would embrace the change.
“Public calls for action have encouraged a significant number of retailers, including supermarkets, to move on single-use plastic bags,” she said, noting that the government plans to work alongside retailers to help make the change.
Public discussion of the issue is important to the plan — people have until Friday Sept. 14 to have their say on the government’s website.
“It’s great that many people are already changing the way they shop,” said Ardern. “But it’s important we take the time now to get this right so we can help all New Zealanders adjust their shopping habits.
“We need to be far smarter in the way we manage waste and this is a good start.”
Here’s hoping there’s no “bag rage” on the horizon like we’ve seen across the pond in Australia.
It’s not the only strong move toward tackling climate change that New Zealand has made in recent months. In April, Ardern announced that the country would be stopping all new offshore exploration for the oil and gas industry to address climate change.
Let’s all move to New Zealand, yeah?