By Editor-July 4th, 2023.
Supermarket customers in New Zealand already are expected to bring their own shopping bags to grocery stores, but now they will have to bring their own reusable bags for fruits and vegetables too.
New Zealand is the first major country in the world to ban single-use thin produce bags at stores and supermarkets. The measure officially went into effect on July 1.
Single-use plastics can cause a multitude of problems, including clogging storm sewers, littering landscapes and killing wildlife. New Zealand Secretary for the Environment James Palmer anticipates that the new ban will eliminate 150 million plastic produce bags from circulation each year.
“That’s 17,000 plastic bags, every hour,” Palmer said in a statement.
In recent years, many countries have imposed a fee or ban on plastic bags.
“New Zealand produces too much waste, too much plastic waste,” Associate Environment Minister Rachel Brooking said.
She added more than one billion plastic bags had been saved since the ban on thicker bags took effect in 2019.
In 2019, New Zealand no longer allowed stores to provide single-use plastic shopping bags. This measure takes waste-reducing efforts a step further by banning recyclable, biodegradable or plant-based plastic.
Instead, customers are encouraged to carry mesh, paper or canvas bags to hold their produce.
Countries across the globe slowly have been moving away from single-use plastic bags — either imposing fees to use them or banning them from stores.
Through the United Nations Environment Assembly, representatives from 175 nations are working through the end of 2024 to forge an international plan to end plastic pollution.
As of 2021, eight U.S. states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont — had passed laws that prohibited stores from providing single-use plastic shopping bags.
The produce bag ban isn’t the only new plastic restriction going into effect in New Zealand. The country also banned the manufacture, sale and distribution of single-use plates, bowls and cutlery, and stores will only be allowed to offer single-use plastic straws to people with disabilities or health needs.
Critics have raised concerns that shoppers may just place groceries in disposable paper bags, which are still available in supermarkets.
“It’s still worth doing this, but we really want to reduce single-use anything packaging,” Ms Brooking said.
“So we want people to be bringing their own bags, and supermarkets are selling reusable produce bags,” she added.
Supermarket chain Countdown, which operates more than 185 stores across the country, has started selling reusable polyester mesh bags.
The company hopes this will encourage shoppers to use reusable bags for fruits and vegetables.
Source: NPR, BBC.Australian Broadcasting Corporation.