By Alice Klein
New Zealand will ban single-use plastic shopping bags next year, the government announced today.
Retailers will be given six months to phase out the bags or face fines of up to NZ$100,000 (£52,000).
In a press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that plastic was the single biggest subject school children wrote to her about. “We’re taking meaningful steps to reduce plastics pollution so we don’t pass this problem to future generations,” she said.
New Zealand currently uses over 750 million single-use plastic bags per year, which is equivalent to about 150 per person. “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,” said Ardern.
Bangladesh was the first country to ban plastic bags in 2002. China, Israel, South Africa, the Netherlands, Morocco, Kenya, Rwanda, Mauritania, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Albania and Georgia have since implemented similar bans.
Other countries are experimenting with mandatory minimum charges or voluntary phase-outs for plastic bags. For example, the UK has a mandatory 5-pence charge for plastic bags and Australia’s two biggest supermarket chains voluntarily stopped handing out free plastic bags this month.