New Zealand has just announced that it will phase out single-use plastics between 2022 and 2025 in an effort to promote environmental sustainability.
The country will ban plastic drink stirrers, straws, and cutlery, according to the Guardian, as well as PVC and polystyrene food and drink packaging.
Despite New Zealand’s reputation as one of the greenest countries in the world, it has had trouble managing waste, leading to challenges in the fight against climate change. Last year, a government report found that nearly 60% of the country’s rivers were polluted above acceptable levels.
While New Zealand had already banned plastic bags from being used in 2019, this year’s initiative will expand the ban of single-use plastics to target items that commonly end up in landfills and pollute soil, waterways, and the ocean. The government also announced a $50 million pledge to the Plastics Innovation Fund, which will launch in November to help businesses find alternatives to plastic packaging.
“We estimate this new policy will remove more than 2 billion single-use plastic items from our landfills or environment each year,” David Parker, New Zealand’s environment minister, said. “Phasing out unnecessary and problematic plastics will help reduce waste to landfill, improve our recycling system, and encourage reusable or environmentally responsible alternatives.”
Currently, the world produces almost 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. Half of all plastic that is produced is designed to be used only once, including plastic water bottles, bags, and cutlery. These items take anywhere from 20 to 500 years to decompose, harming wildlife and polluting the environment along the way.
New Zealand is joining a spate of other countries that have taken steps to prevent plastic from contributing to environmental degradation. Last year, England announced a ban on plastic straws, drink stirrers, and cotton buds to curb use of some single-use plastics. Two Australian states — New South Wales and Western Australia — recently announced initiatives to end reliance on plastic and ban harmful items by the end of 2022.
While many environmentalists and businesses are applauding the country’s efforts to reduce use of plastic, some point out that more can — and should — be done before New Zealand can correct its waste problem.
Packaging New Zealand, a group of organizations involved in packaging, said that the government should develop a plan to make the construction and demolition industries more environmentally-conscious. Currently, those industries account for almost 50% of landfill waste.
The expansion of New Zealand’s single-use plastics ban will begin in 2022 as the country develops initiatives to replace items that use plastic, including coffee cups and wet wipes, which are not included in the ban.
“New Zealanders told us they support urgent change in how we use plastic,” Parker said. “We want to be part of global solutions to tackle the impacts of plastic pollution.”