Single-use plastic shopping bags are to be phased out over the next year, as the Government plans to crack down on the environmental villain.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern and associate environment minister Eugenie Sage made the announcement at Lyall Bay, Wellington, on Friday morning.
“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,” Ardern said.
“We’re phasing-out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation.”
The PM said there were viable alternatives for consumers and business. Last year, the Bags Not campaign was launched by Stuff to bring awareness to the problem and highlight public support behind action.
Ardern said plastic was the single biggest subject school children wrote to her about, and this year 65,000 New Zealander signed a petition calling for an outright ban on bags.
Refusing to change would have meant there could be more plastic in the oceans by weight than fish by the year 2050, Ardern said.
The Government has released a consultation document to work out exactly what types of bags could be captured by the ban.
But not everyone is pleased with the planned ban. ACT Party leader David Seymour said the ban would “punish responsible consumers and may produce worse environmental outcomes.”
“Plastic waste gets into the environment as it’s collected and transported to landfills. This isn’t the fault of Kiwis who find plastic bags easy and convenient and dispose of them responsibly.”
Seymour also took aim at the Green Party: “No Green MP has a science degree, so it’s not surprising that this policy could end up hurting the environment.”
National Party leader Simon Bridges said the plastic bag ban was “low-hanging fruit that won’t make any real difference”. He said the Ardern-led Government had bigger problems on its hands.
“The Prime Minister should turn her attention to fixing the very real concerns around plummeting business confidence and our slowing economy .” Bridges said New Zealanders were already reducing their plastic bag use.
“They didn’t need to be told what to do by a Government increasingly looking like it thinks it knows best.”
A Greenpeace petition was launched in July last year and went to Parliament in February, but in 2014, a similar petition garnered only a quarter of the number of signatures. >