An astonishing 1 trillion single-use plastic bags are estimated to be in use around the world.
That equates to 2 million bags every minute! A significant proportion of these bags find their way into the natural environment – both on land and in the sea – where they can cause significant problems for life in both these habitats.
Recently there has been a great focus and a push toward banning single-use plastics across the board, whether it be bags, bottles, coffee take-away cups and the like. Cities and some organisations have moved to ban single-use plastic straws and plastic-free grocery stores have got on board, and there’s even a plastic free month movement – go plastic-free for a month!
In a recent press conference, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a ban on single-use plastic bags that will take effect next year.
“We’re taking meaningful steps to reduce plastic pollution so we don’t pass this problem to future generations,” she said. It is estimated that New Zealand uses 750 million plastic bags every year, roughly 150 per New Zealander.
Retailers around the country have six months to phase out the plastic bags. Failure to comply could result in fines of up to$100,000.
The reason which motivated the decision to implement the ban according to Ardern, was that plastic pollution was the issue she hears about most from New Zealand’s children. She echoed their concerns about “a mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life.”
New Zealand is not the first country to ban plastic bags. Bangladesh banned single-use plastic bags in 2002, and since then, 13 more countries have followed suit. New Zealand brings that number to 15.
The incremental single-use plastic ban country-by-country, company-by-company and at an individual level coupled with global clean up initiatives and subsequent recycling of this waste, will see a vast improvement in the amount of damage plastic waste will cause the environment.