Wellington, July 2: New Zealand yesterday took a courageous decision to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. More important is that New Zealand has also banned the so-called ‘degradable’ plastic regardless of whether it is made from fossil fuel or biological sources. This is indeed a remarkable step as the credibility of such ‘degradable plastic’ has not been scientifically ensured yet. It also avoids the threat of the hazardous plastic being sold under the icon of ‘degradable plastic’.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Environment in its release has cleared that all new single-use plastic shopping bags with handles that are made of plastic up to 70 microns in thickness are completely banned. These include light-weight bags commonly found at supermarket, takeaway food, and other retail checkouts, heavier boutique-style bags commonly found at department and clothing stores and ‘emergency bags’ offered by some supermarkets as an alternative to free a single-use plastic bag. The violation of the rule may subject to penalties of up to 1,00,000 New Zealand Dollars (USD 67,000).
Biodegradable plastic is plastic that will break down through the action of living organisms, usually microbes. If biodegradable plastic is left to break down in a natural environment such as in landfills or the sea, it often only beaks down into micro-plastics. These micro-plastic can create ‘plastic smog’ in parts of ocean and accumulate in soils. Compostable plastic is plastic that will break down entirely into it nutrients and natural substances. Most compostable plastics are designed to break down in a commercial compost and may not break down in a natural environment. If disposed to landfill, biodegradable plastic is likely to produce methane, a known greenhouse gas. Biodegradable and compostable plastics are not designed to be processed by recycling facilities that deal with all other plastics. - Ministry of Environment, New ZealandThe Government of New Zealand has appealed people to refuse plastic bag if businesses offer so and report the Ministry of Environment if the businesses still continue to provide plastic shopping bags.