New Zealand becomes first nation to ban plastic produce bags

New Zealand becomes first nation to ban plastic produce bags

By Liam Taylor  August 16th, 2023

Our southern neighbour has emerged as a pioneer in the global effort to curb plastic waste by becoming the first country to prohibit single-use produce bags within grocery establishments.


Shoppers in New Zealand were already expected to bring their own shopping bags to supermarkets following a ban on single-use plastic options in July 2019. Effective from July 1st, this practice has been expanded to encompass reusable bags for fruits and vegetables as well.

The latest move is part of a comprehensive governmental initiative aimed at combating the prevalent issue of single-use plastics. The regulation outlaws not only recyclable and biodegradable plastics but also plant-based alternatives. Instead, customers are encouraged to opt for mesh, paper, or canvas bags to carry their produce.

The latest move also includes prohibition of various other single-use plastic products, including the production, sale, and distribution of single-use plates, bowls, and cutlery. The hospitality sector will now only be permitted to provide single-use plastic straws to individuals with disabilities or specific health requirements.

“Plastic is an ever-present part of our lives. But it is often not disposed of correctly and ends up in the environment, breaking down into microplastic pollution,” said James Palmer, New Zealand’s Chief Executive at the Ministry for the Environment.

“This is a growing problem in our freshwater and marine environments.”

The ramifications of the new ban are profound, as it is anticipated to eliminate a staggering 150 million plastic produce bags annually — equivalent to 17,000 plastic bags per hour — from circulation.

Shaun Lewis, Director of Waste Stream Policy at the Ministry for the Environment, emphasised that these plastic items, typically utilized only once before contributing to waste and litter, pose significant challenges to recycling processes as well as their threat to marine life.

While various countries across the globe have been gradually taking steps to diminish the reliance on single-use plastic bags through tactics such as imposing fees or outright bans, New Zealand is the first to broaden policy scope to encompass plastic produce bags. Australia has no nationwide regulation on plastic products, however certain single-use plastic products are now banned in every Australian state and territory.

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Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


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Liam Taylor

Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia. Joining the communications team at Planet Ark, he hopes to inspire positive environmental behaviour through effective and positive messaging.

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