New Zealand bans thin plastic bags for fresh produce at supermarkets

Plastic straws, plates, bowls and cutlery are also banned.

Zi Shan Kow | July 11, 2023, 05:33 PM

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New Zealand has become the first country to ban the thin plastic bags that supermarket customers use to collect their fruit and vegetables.

Ban will reduce another 150 million bags each year

The New Zealand government's campaign against single-use plastics started in 2019 with the banning of take-home plastic bags in stores.

"New Zealand produces too much waste, too much plastic waste," said associate environment minister Rachel Brooking.

Officials estimate that the average New Zealander sends more than three-quarters of a ton of waste to landfills every year, reported Associated Press (AP).

According to one index, New Zealand was the 10th biggest waste-producing nation in the world per capita and the biggest producer of landfill waste per capita in 2022.

Brooking said the 2019 bag ban prevented more than one billion plastic bags from being used in New Zealand.

The new ban on thin bags is expected to reduce another 150 million bags each year, which makes up approximately 17,000 plastic bags every hour.

No more thin plastic bags

The ban on thin plastic bags came into effect on Jul. 1.

It includes recyclable, biodegradable and plant-based plastics.

Customers are encouraged to carry mesh, paper or canvas bags to hold their produce, reported NPR.

In enacting the ban, Brooking said that the emphasis would be on getting people to be bring their own bags.

However, officials could impose penalties on businesses that flout the rules.

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Before extending the ban, officials investigated concerns it would not benefit the environment much if customers switched to using disposable paper bags instead of bringing reusable ones.

Brooking said the government found that it was "still worth" extending the ban, but the ultimate aim is to "reduce single-use anything packaging".

Eliminating single-use plastics by 2025

The latest ban also extends to plastic straws, plates, bowls and cutlery.

However, stores will be allowed to offer single-use plastic straws to people with disabilities or health needs, reported The Independent.

New Zealand has plans to ban polystyrene and PVC food and beverage packaging by mid-2025, as part of its goal to eliminate most single-use plastics by 2025.

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Top images via Unsplash/Anna Szentgyörgyi.