The ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, which takes effect on 1 July, is a step towards healthier oceans and giving nature a hand, says Associate Environment Minister, Eugenie Sage.
The Waste Minimisation (Plastic Shopping Bags) Regulations 2018, announced last December, ban single-use plastic bags under 70 microns in thickness from 1 July 2019.
The regulations apply to all businesses in New Zealand who sell goods, including sales directly to consumers, business-to-business transactions and online sales. They apply to small produce markets and retail stores, through to large department stores and supermarkets, and both profit and not-for-profit organisations.
Mainstream supermarkets have already made the change away from single-use plastic shopping bags and report that this has stopped tens of millions of bags being handed out.
“At the start of plastic-free July, the plastic shopping bag ban is one step to tackling New Zealand’s waste issues. We also need to recharge our materials recovery and recycling systems and shift to a circular economy,” Sage said.
The public consultation, which ran from 10 August to 14 September 2018 and garnered almost 10,000 submissions, showed that New Zealanders want less plastic waste; 92 per cent of submitters agreeing we should no longer have single-use plastic shopping bags in New Zealand.
In addition, a September 2018 survey showed that 50 per cent of New Zealanders brought their own bags, up from 35 per cent in April 2018. This positive behaviour change was spurred on by supermarkets’ voluntarily phasing out single-use plastic bags last year.
At the same time, the ministry’s attitudinal research indicated that reducing waste is rated as the second (equal) most important challenge facing New Zealand over the next 20 years behind reducing child poverty.
“Government regulations and the sum of many individual actions make a difference. New Zealanders remembering to take their reusable bags is stopping tens of millions of single-use plastic bags becoming waste each year.
“Lightweight single-use plastic shopping bags pollute nature because they are easily transported by wind and water. The phase-out encourages people to act with nature in mind,” Sage said.
Not stopping at single-use plastic bags, many local and international businesses are showing leadership through signing up to the New Zealand Plastic Packaging Declaration and committing to using 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in their New Zealand operations by 2025 or earlier.
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