New Zealand joins the single-use plastic war

Here’s what New Zealand is going to do with all that junk. Source: Shutterstock.

AS MORE countries are declaring war against single-use plastics such as straws, cutlery, grocery bags, cups, and more, New Zealand is also stepping up to help defeat the environmental threat.

The sovereign island country has just pledged to outlaw single-use plastic shopping bags.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said they will be phased out over the next year as a “meaningful step” towards reducing pollution.

“We need to be far smarter in the way we manage waste and this is a good start,” AFP quoted Ardern as saying.

“We’re phasing-out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation.”

According to Ardern, New Zealand uses “hundreds of millions” of single-use plastic bags each year, many of which end up harming marine life.

Plastic pollution

Source: Shutterstock.

New Zealand has been facing up to environmental challenges. “Just like climate change, we’re taking meaningful steps to reduce plastics pollution so we don’t pass this problem to future generations,” Ardern said.

Single-use plastic bags are among the most common items found in coastal litter in New Zealand and the environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the decision to outlaw them.

“This could be a major leap forward in turning the tide on ocean plastic pollution and an important first step in protecting marine life such as sea turtles and whales, from the growing plastic waste epidemic,” Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Emily Hunter said.

Single-Use Plastics Wrapped in Plastic

Source: Shutterstock.

According to the United Nations (UN), up to five trillion grocery bags are used globally each year, which is nearly 10 million plastic bags per minute.

“If tied together, all these plastic bags could be wrapped around the world seven times every hour,” UN Environment head Erik Solheim said. And like most plastic garbage, barely any is recycled.

More than 60 countries had introduced bans and levies on single-use plastic items like bags.

But better waste management, financial incentives to change consumers’ buying habits and research into alternative materials were needed to make any real change.

Asian countries are collectively initiating a clean-up effort to reduce unnecessary waste by banning or regulating the use of plastic bags.

In March, Taiwan announced it was banning single-use plastic drinking straws in several phases, starting with the food and beverage industry. This came not long after Taiwan introduced a recycling programme and charges for plastic bags.

In May, South Korea revealed penalties of up to KRW300,000 (US$280) for business owners that are found offering plastic bags for free. The Seoul Metropolitan Government also has plans to crack down on the excessive packaging of products.