WELLINGTON, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- A New Zealand environmental official confirmed on Saturday the mandatory phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags in New Zealand that will come into effect around the middle of next year.
This announcement by Associate Environmental Minister Eugenie Sage followed a five-week public consultation process, where 92 percent of submitters supported the proposed mandatory phase out.
"The clear majority of people who responded to the consultation supported a nationwide phase out of single-use plastic bags, and many called on the government to act quickly to make this change," Sage said in a statement.
The government has carefully considered the full range of views put forward, and it is now time to take action as a step towards addressing plastic pollution, Sage said, adding this will apply to all retailers.
"Single-use plastic bags often end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to marine mammals, sea-birds and other marine life," she said, adding plastic bags are among the most common items found in beach clean-ups in New Zealand.
Many retailers and individuals have already stopped using single-use plastic bags and recent research shows 50 percent of New Zealanders now say they always bring reusable bags when shopping, according to the environmental ministry.
This change will impact retailers, as well as local manufacturers and importers of plastic bags. For this reason, and to meet World Trade Organization requirements, the phase out will have a six-month implementation period, despite calls for a shorter timeframe, Sage said.
The ban includes bags under 70 microns, with the exception of lightweight bags made of synthetic fabric and designed for multiple use over a long life. Degradable plastic bags will also be included, which covers oxo-degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic bags.
The exact date for the ban to come into effect will be known once regulations are considered in December.