The New Zealand Government Will Phase Out Single-Use Plastic Bags Over the Next Year
Soon the bags will disappear form checkouts around the country.
Well, it's finally happening — the New Zealand Government will begin to phase out single-use plastic bags across the whole country. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Jacinda Adern via a live Facebook video stream, who said that she "underestimated the impact of plastics on our environment" and "the strength of feeling among everyday New Zealanders around this issue". Over 60,000 New Zealanders called for the ban in this petition and, according to Adern, her office has received hundreds of letters from children urging the same.
The phase out will commence over the next 12 months, with the period expected to last six months. The decision follows similar moves from supermarket chains around the country — in May, Countdown was the first New Zealand supermarket to announce it will discontinue single-use plastic bags from its checkouts and online shopping service for good, and Foodstuffs has also announced plans to discontinue single-use bags by the end of 2018.
In accordance with Countdown (and its Australian counterpart Woolworths), it's likely that the single-use bags will need to be replaced with thicker, more durable options that are supposed to be reusable.
"It's great that many people are already changing the way they shop," said Adern. "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."
The decision certainly signifies a shift in the country's attitudes to plastic. However, it's hard to say if the new, more durable bags will change habits — even though they're meant to be more reusable, customers may not use them any differently to the way they use single-use bags now. And in Australia, the two big supermarket chains — Woolworths and Coles — temporarily lifted their plastic bag bans shortly after implementing them due to customer backlash.
The Government is seeking views on the plastic bag ban until September 14. You can add yours here.
Published on August 10, 2018 by Lauren Vadnjal