New Zealand to phase out single-use plastic bags

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Wellington : New Zealand announced on Friday that it will phase out plastic shopping bags over the next year to protect the environment and its reputation as a clean, green country.

"Every year in New Zealand we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags - a mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life," Efe news quoted a government statement as saying.

It said the measure announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage responded to the petition raised by 65,000 New Zealanders to ban plastic bags and it is the "biggest subject school children write to (the Prime Minister) about".

Ardern said that the policy will be implemented gradually so that New Zealanders can get used to the changes.

Sage said many countries around the world have successfully taken action on plastic pollution, and she proposed a six-month phase-out period.

In neighbouring Australia, a similar policy has been put in place in several states and territories except the most populated state, New South Wales, while Victoria plans to do so in the coming months.

The prohibition or restriction of plastic bags has been adopted in some European and Latin American countries.

Each year 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the sea and, given the current consumption patterns, by 2030 the annual production of plastic will be 619 million tons globally, according to the UN Environment Programme.