Wanaka Wastebusters staff are thrilled about New Zealand Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage’s leadership to ban single-use plastic bags nationwide, considering the news a big win and step in the right direction. The recently announced plastic pollution mandatory ban will come into effect towards mid-2019 and will require all retailers to comply with the six-month phase out of plastic shopping bags under 70 microns.
Wastebusters communications manager Gina Dempster said their community-owned enterprise, which works towards zero waste, is thrilled that oxo-degradable, biodegradable and compostable bags are also included within the ban. The only exception to the new rule are lightweight bags made of synthetic fabric and designed for long-life multiple use.
Sage’s statement to New Zealand, which recently signed up to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, followed a five-week public consultation process, where 92 percent of submitters supported the proposed phase out.
“Wastebusters has been working for the end of single-use plastic bags since the start of the millennium, so we see this move as well overdue. We're really excited to be able to move on to new campaigns to reduce waste going to landfill. We really support the move by the hospitality industry in Wanaka to remove take-away cups; that would be a great next step now that we've gotten rid of single-use plastic bags” said Dempster.
Sage said single-use plastic bags are often the most common items found in beach clean-ups that are polluting coastal and marine environments and causing serious harm to marine life.
“I have also set out a work programme to tackle our wider-waste issues, which includes expanding the waste disposal levy to all landfills, improving our national data on waste and resource recovery, investing more strategically in infrastructure and innovation to support resource recovery, and developing a national circular economy strategy to design waste out of the system,” said Sage.
Dempster told the Wanaka Sun the statement is encouraging. “We're seeing a real shift in attitudes towards waste. People are sick of throwing out so much rubbish, and they can see the impact that plastic waste is having on our oceans. We hope that this ban on single-use shopping bags is the start of push back against disposable items which have such a high cost to the environment.”
The date for the single-use plastic bag ban to come into effect will be known once regulations are considered by the Cabinet of New Zealand in December.