New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said on Friday that her country will ban single-use plastic bags, in an effort to tackle the plastic pollution that is plaguing the country’s coast.
The government has asked supermarkets and grocery stores in the country to stop providing single-use plastic bags in six months or face a fine of up to circa 66,000 U.S. dollars.
“We’re phasing out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation,” said Arden.
New Zealand uses 1.6 billion bags a year. Many of them end up in the ocean, “where they are mistaken for food by creatures like turtles, and swallowed,” the environmental group Greenpeace said on its website, adding that one in three turtles found on New Zealand beaches swallowed plastic waste.
A World Bank report said the Oceanic country is one of the highest producers of urban waste per capita in the developed world.
Arden’s new move is not without support. In February, 65,000 New Zealanders signed a petition to call for outlawing the use of lightweight plastic bags, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Greenpeace also said it welcomes New Zealand’s move, calling it “a major leap forward in turning the tide on ocean plastic pollution.”
A study in 2015 found that approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste was thrown into the oceans every year. At this rate, the mass of plastic waste in our oceans will exceed that of all fish in 2050.