New Zealand is looking to take bold action on plastic pollution by phasing out "problem plastics" and many single-use plastics by July 2025, according to an announcement from the New Zealand Government.
New Zealand will phase out the use of single-use plastic items, including drink stirrers, cotton buds, single-use produce bags, cutlery, plates and bowls, straws, and fruit labels, as well as plastics that are hard to recycle, such as food and drink packaging made from PVC and polystyrene.
Despite its green reputation, New Zealand actually produces one of the highest quantities of plastic trash per capita in the world. However, the majority of New Zealanders have expressed strong support for strong action on plastic pollution in recent years.
“Every day, New Zealanders throw away an estimated 159 grams of plastic waste per person, making us some of the highest waste generators in the world,” David Parker, New Zealand’s Environment Minister, said in a statement.
“There is strong support for taking action on coffee cups and wet wipes… Plastic straws are a particular area of concerns, and we are committed to phasing them out, but work is needed to ensure that does not have a detrimental impact on those who need to use them,” he explained.
“These types of plastics often end up as waste in landfills and cause pollution in our soils, waterways, and the ocean. Reducing plastic waste will improve our environment and ensure we live up to our clean, green reputation,” added Parker.
The plastics phase-outs will take place in three stages starting late 2022. The first phase, set to come into action by late 2022, will ban easier to replace plastics, such as PVC meat trays, Polystyrene takeaway packaging, EPS grocery packaging, plastic drink stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. The next phase will come in by mid-2023 and will ban single-use plastic produce bags, plastic tableware (plates/bowls/cutlery), plastic straws, and non-compostable produce labels. By mid-2025, all other PVC and polystyrene food and beverage packaging will be banned.
As part of the push, the government has also set up a $50 million fund for research looking into new ways to reuse and dispose of plastics.
A bunch of other countries have recently vowed to move away from plastic in recent years. While many countries have looked to cut the use of plastic bags, the European Union (EU) took one of the strongest steps three years ago with their ban on a wide range of single-use items, set to come into force this year. Canada also recently took bold action towards banning plastic by listing single-use plastic as toxic.