AUCKLAND, New Zealand - New Zealand on Friday committed to banning disposable plastic bags, as part of its efforts to tackle plastic pollution and live up to its clean-and-green image.
Announcing the ban on Friday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “New Zealanders use hundreds of millions of the bags each year,” adding that “some of them end up polluting the precious coastal and marine environment.”
A recent report in the U.S. journal Science revealed that eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the Earth's oceans and seas each year.
The report pointed out that toxic particles in the plastic is ingested by fish and, through the food chain, by humans.
On Friday, Ardern made the announcement alongside Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage, who said that the ban will be implemented on single-use plastic shopping bags by next July.
Previously, New Zealand's two main supermarket chains had announced similar bans on plastic bag usage.
On Friday, officials said that retailers in the country were being given a six-month window to phase out the use of such bags but were supposed to phase out plastic shopping bags by the end of this year.
According to the UN, more than 60 countries and states have introduced bans or levies on single-use plastic bags.
Estimations released by the UN environment agency state that up to 5 trillion single-use bags are consumed worldwide each year.
In December last year, 193 countries committed to a UN plan to stop plastic waste entering into oceans.
Of these countries, around 40 have reportedly completely banned single-use plastic bags, with charges or outright prohibitions in some countries.
On Friday, while announcing the ban, officials stated that New Zealand's efforts to curb the use of the plastic bags also steps from the fact that with the country’s marine Exclusive Economic Zone (a UN-prescribed state sea zone) is about 15 times the size of its land mass - which means that the country has a significant part to play in the globe's plastic pollution cleanup.
Ardern said in her statement, “We’re phasing-out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation. 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."