New Zealanders have sent a clear message that it is time for action on plastic pollution.
We listened as a government and from this week, July 1, 2019, single-use plastic bags will be a thing of the past.
Like many of you, I am horrified to see images of our oceans clogged with plastic that takes hundreds or even thousands of years to break down, and marine life killed by the torrent of plastic that floods our oceans.
The ban on single-use plastic bag is just one initial step, but it will make a difference given that we currently use 750 million such bags in New Zealand each year.
We as New Zealanders, who are proud of our country’s clean, green reputation need to make sure that we live up to it.
Ending the use of single-use plastic bags is a step in the right direction.
About the new regulations
The ban, enforced from this week, will cover all retailers.
New regulations mean that businesses can no longer provide their customers with a single-use plastic bag to carry their purchases. People need to take their own reusable shopping bags to local shops and markets or make use of reusable bags supplied by the retailer.
Businesses were given six months to phase-out single-use plastic bags.
Mainstream supermarkets who already made this change a year ago to stop single-use plastic shopping bags report that this has stopped tens of millions of bags being handed out.
The good news is that survey research carried out by the Environment Ministry has evidence that over half of New Zealanders or 56% brought reusable bags in April 2018 and it has increased to 91% by September 2018.
Individual people and businesses can make a difference by changing our behaviour, but sometimes, we also need clear standards as a society to tackle big issues such as plastic pollution.
At this point there are no immediate plans for restrictions on other plastic items but it is important that further steps are taken to reduce plastic pollution.
I note that many businesses who currently use other single-use plastic items, including small cafes and large supermarkets are now allowing and encouraging the public to bring in their own containers. Give it a go!
The Environment Ministry will work with businesses to make sure that they are aware of the ban. The Ministry website has a toolkit for businesses to help with the transition.
This website will be a good place to find out what sort of bags are banned, why some bags are banned and some are not; exemptions; which businesses are affected by the ban and other such useful information. Please check this website for more information.
Together we can make the changes needed to help New Zealand truly live up to our clean, green reputation.
Michael Wood is elected Member of Parliament from Mt Roskill and is Senior Government Whip.
Example of banned bags (from www.mfe.govt.nz)