Following in the footsteps of over 60 other countries declaring war on single-use plastics, New Zealand announced this week that it will be phasing out single-use plastic shopping bags as a measure to reduce pollution.
Considering that New Zealand uses “hundreds of millions” of plastic shopping bags each year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern believes the move could potentially reduce the harmful impact the bags have on marine life.
"We need to be far smarter in the way we manage waste and this is a good start," said Ardern.
"We're phasing-out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand's clean, green reputation."
According to Ardern, the government is preparing to tackle environmental challenges and "just like climate change, we're taking meaningful steps to reduce plastics pollution so we don't pass this problem to future generations."
Among those expressing support for the plan to outlaw plastic shopping bags is Greenpeace, who calls single-use plastic bags one of the major culprits of coastal waste in New Zealand.
"This could be a major leap forward in turning the tide on ocean plastic pollution and an important first step in protecting marine life such as sea turtles and whales, from the growing plastic waste epidemic," Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Emily Hunter said.
According to a recent United Nations report, an estimated five trillion plastic grocery bags are used worldwide each year — that’s roughly 10 million plastic bags per minute.
"If tied together, all these plastic bags could be wrapped around the world seven times every hour," and, as with most plastic waste, only a fraction of it is recycled, said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.
The single-use plastic shopping bags are expected to be gradually phased out over the course of the next year.