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New Zealand to phase out plastic shopping bags

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-12-18 19:17

A shopper places her goods into her car outside a supermarket in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, Aug 10, 2018. [Photo/IC]

WELLINGTON - New Zealand's regulations for mandatory phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags will take effect from July 1, 2019, Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage confirmed on Tuesday.

Retailers will no longer be able to sell or give away single-use plastic shopping bags from July next year after the cabinet agreed to the proposed regulations for a mandatory nationwide phase out of these bags.

"Plastic shopping bags are a hazard for nature, particularly marine wildlife. They can also introduce harmful microplastics into the food chain," Sage said in a statement.

These regulations are an important first step to tackle New Zealand's wider waste problem, she said, adding that manufacturers, retailers and consumers all have a responsibility to reduce waste and prevent plastic pollution.

Public consultation running in August and September showed strong support for the proposed regulations, with 92 percent of submitters agreeing New Zealand should no longer have single-use plastic shopping bags.

The phase out will apply to all new plastic shopping bags with handles that are made of plastic up to 70 microns in thickness. This includes light-weight supermarket bags, heavier boutique-style shopping bags and the "emergency" bags currently offered by some supermarkets as an alternative to a free single-use bag.

It will also include bags fitting this description made of degradable plastic, such as biodegradable, compostable and oxy-degradable plastic bags, regardless of whether the plastic material is sourced from fossil-fuel, synthetic compounds or from biological sources such as plants.

The phase-out marks the start of a significant government program to reduce waste and builds the foundations for New Zealand's transition to a "circular economy" approach, where eventually waste will be designed out of the system, according to the official.

"We have an ambitious program underway to turn around New Zealand's poor track record on waste," Sage said, adding this includes expanding the waste disposal levy to all landfills and improving data on waste and resource recovery, investing more strategically in infrastructure and innovation, and a greater focus on product stewardship for problematic waste streams such as vehicle tyres and e-waste.

New Zealand has recently become a signatory to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, a global pledge to address the root causes of plastic pollution.

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