Friday, June 30, 2023

Banning more plastics in NZ

From midnight tonight, more single-use plastics will be banned in New Zealand, including a first-in the world ban of plastic bags used to pack-up fresh produce in supermarkets. This is yet another move toward dramatically reducing the amount of hard-to-recycle plastic that ends up in landfills, the ocean—and us.

The plastics that are banned from tomorrow, in addition to those thin plastic produce bags are: Plastic tableware (used at foodcourts/fast food places, and that includes plates, bowls, trays, and cutlery), plastic straws (except for disabled people and those with health needs), and a transition will begin toward home-compostable stickers on produce (like apples, for example). This will be the latest step in a program that actually began in 2018.

Back in 2018, plastic microbeads were banned. Those were typically used in things like cosmetics, face scrubs, etc. They ended up contaminating waterways, the oceans—and people.

The next year, 2019, single-use plastic shopping bags were banned. They were common in many shops, like supermarkets. I’d already made the switch to reusable bags long before the ban came into force, but that was so unremarkable to me that I don’t seem to have ever talked about it specifically (unlike when I converted to reusable mesh produce bags).

In 2021, the government announced its three-phase plan to phase out “problem plastics”. Phase One of the current programme began in October of last year, and it banned some PVC food trays and containers, polystyrene takeaway food and drink packaging, all expanded polystyrene food and drink packaging, all “degradable” plastics (things like bags that contained “pro-degradant” additives, including oxo and photo degradable plastics; those products simply produced microplastics and couldn’t be recycled), single-use plastic drink stirrers (like for coffee and tea), single-use plastic-stemmed cotton buds (such as, Q-tips). Phase 2 is what begins tomorrow.

In 2025, Phase 3, the final phase, will ban all PVC and polystyrene food and drink packaging not already banned. By this point, all those produce stickers will need to be sustainable.

We have a long way to go, and we still need to find better ways of recycling plastics we can’t yet replace, even as work to find sustainable alternatives continues. New Zealand has been working hard at finding solutions, even as we find ways to avoid using plastic packaging at all.

The work to eliminate as much plastic as possible, as quickly as possible, is about more than overflowing landfills and wasted resources, it’s about health. Last year, researchers found that Auckland’s air contained microplastics equivalent to three million plastic bottles a year, and microplastics—especially the even smaller nanoplastics—now being found in humans alarmingly often, and because of that, they’re suspected of being capable of possibly causing some cancers or other diseases, particularly involving the lungs.

When plastics started taking over the world, we didn’t know how dangerous plastics, especially single-use plastics, would be to the environment—and to humans. We need to get serious about ending this problem. I’m glad I live in a country that’s doing exactly that.

Related: “Guidance on single-use plastic products banned or phased out from July 2023” – New Zealand Ministry for the Environment

Graphic above is from the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment [SOURCE].


Roger Owen Green said...

This is important. Other countries should obviously follow suit before it's too late (which it probably is)

Arthur Schenck said...

There are so many good reasons to move on plastics. And, every change helps.