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Catherine Langabeer, left, the head of sustainability at the Countdown chain of supermarkets, and associate environment minister Rachel Brooking demonstrate collecting fruit in reusable polyester mesh bags Nick Perry/AP via PA
plastic waste

New Zealand to become first country to ban thin plastic bags from supermarkets

Some supermarkets have started selling polyester mesh bags that can be washed and reused.

NEW ZEALAND IS set to become the first country to ban the thin plastic bags that supermarket customers use to collect their fruit and vegetables.

The new ban will also extend to plastic straws and cutlery as the government expands a campaign against single-use plastics it started in 2019 when it banned the thicker plastic carrier bags used to carry shopping home.

“New Zealand produces too much waste, too much plastic waste,” said associate environment minister Rachel Brooking.

Brooking said the 2019 bag ban has already prevented more than one billion plastic bags from being used in New Zealand and the new ban on thin bags, which will come into force on Saturday, will add a further reduction of 150 million bags per year.

Officials investigated concerns the latest ban will not help the environment much if customers simply switch to using disposable paper bags to collect their fruit and vegetables.

“The answer was still yes, it’s still worth doing this, but we really want to reduce single-use anything packaging,” Brooking said.

“We want people to be bringing their own bags and supermarkets are selling reusable produce bags.”

Brooking said the emphasis will be on educating people but officials could impose penalties on businesses choosing to flaunt the rules.

The Countdown chain of supermarkets has started selling polyester mesh bags that can be washed and reused.

Catherine Langabeer, Countdown’s head of sustainability, said the mesh bags were tested to be reused up to 5,000 times each.

Countdown is working hard to get customers to think of reusable fruit-and-vegetable bags as the norm, she said.

“But we know change is hard and will take them a little while,” Langabeer said. “We get some grumpy customers.”

She said other customers are finding creative ways to carry home their purchases without using any plastic.

Critics have questioned the liberal government’s environmental record, pointing out that the nation’s overall greenhouse gas emissions have not decreased since the government symbolically declared a climate emergency in 2020.

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