plastic bag
Man carries a plastic bag of basic foods after buying them during a special inspection by Venezuelan soldiers to a municipal market in Caracas, Venezuela July 15, 2016. Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

New Zealand is phasing out single-use plastic shopping bags. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the move on Friday, citing environmental reasons for the ban.

Ardern said the ban was necessary to “safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation.” The country will join the increasing list of other countries banning single-use plastic bags as it phases them out over the next year.

The PM said the move was petitioned by 65,000 Kiwis who called for an outright ban of the environmental villain. Single-use plastic bags were also “the biggest single subject” that schoolchildren wrote to the Labour Party leader.

“Every year in New Zealand, we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags — a mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our previous coastal and marine environments and cause harm to all kinds of marine life, and all of this when there are viable alternatives for consumers and business,” she said.

“It’s great that many people are already changing the way they shop. But it’s important we take the time now to get this right so we can help all New Zealanders adjust their shopping habits. We need to be smarter in the way we manage waste and this is a good start.”

Jacinda Ardern
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sits in a chair as she attends her first cabinet meeting since returning from maternity leave in Wellington, New Zealand, August 6, 2018. Reuters/Charlotte Greenfield

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage added that as many countries and major cities around the world have already successfully implanted plastic bag, she was confident that they can also embrace the change. The NZ Government will work with supermarkets and retailers to help people with the shift to reusable bags.

“We’re proposing a six-month phase-out period and we’re confident this is a change we can make together,” Sage said. They are accepting until Sep. 14, Friday, for submission of views, including options for the date of the completion of the phase-out, the bags that should be included in the ban, if there should be retailers exempted from the ban, and how to best help people with the transition.

“We are a Government determined to face up to New Zealander’s environmental challenges,” Ardern continued. “Just like climate change, we’re taking meaningful steps to reduce plastics pollution so we don’t pass this problem to future generations.”

Retailers have largely expressed support for the move, but not everyone is happy with it. ACT Party Leader David Seymour said the plastic ban might “produce worse environmental outcomes” as plastic wastes are collected and transported to landfills. National Party Leader Simon Bridges also thought the move was futile and wouldn’t make any real difference.

“The prime minister should turn her attention to fixing the very real concerns around plummeting business confidence and our slowing economy,” Bridges said (via Stuff).

When Australian supermarkets made a similar move in June, some customers responded negatively to it. There were demands that the retailers bring back giving single-use plastic bags for free. Coles caved in last week.