• New Zealand's latest plastics ban is hoped to remove problematic plastics from the environment.
    New Zealand's latest plastics ban is hoped to remove problematic plastics from the environment.
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New Zealand has implemented a ban on thin plastic bags for fresh produce in supermarkets, along with produce labels, single-use straws and cutlery. 

The ban on single-use plastic bags includes those made of recyclable plastic, biodegradable and compostable plastic. Thin plastic bags for re-packed produce are still allowed under the new regulations, under the condition that the plastic bag forms an integral part of the packaging. This includes sealed bags for fruit or vegetables, or plastic sleeves and bags for lettuce and herbs.

The New Zealand Ministry for the Environment is recommending fibre-based produce bags that are free from Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), reusable bags, or even just avoiding bags altogether when possible. 

Non-compostable plastic produce labels for fruit and vegetables are also to be banned. The regulations will only allow produce labels which are made from certified biodegradable plastics suitable for home composting. The ministry says labels used on produce intended for export are exempt, as are labels on imported produce (the latter until 2025).

The new ban is the second step in New Zealand's plan to remove problematic plastics.
The new ban is the second step in New Zealand's plan to remove problematic plastics.

Single-use plastic drinking straws will still be available in certain circumstances, such as for disabled people or those with health conditions. Manufacturers will still be able to sell straws to certain entities, such as pharmacies and healthcare facilities, but they may not be openly displayed. Furthermore, straws that are attached to a beverage box are exempt from the new regulations until January 2026. 

The New Zealand government states that this is the second step in a three-step plan to phase out problematic plastics in the country. The first step was carried out in October last year and included items such as polystyrene food and drink containers. From mid-2025, the final step will be enacted, which expands the ban to all PVC and polystyrene food and drink packaging not already removed from circulation.   

Each year, the ministry says, every New Zealander sends around 60kg of plastic waste to landfills. Only five per cent of soft plastics are recycled in New Zealand each year, and with the latest bans, the ministry estimates 150 million plastic produce bags will be removed from circulation each year -- that is 17,000 bags every hour of every day.

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