New Zealand bans single-use plastic bags

Thousands of animals each year receive injuries or die due to plastic pollution. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 01 July 2019

New Zealand bans single-use plastic bags

  • Plastic pollution affects more than 100,000 marine mammals and a million birds every year
  • Companies that will continue to provide plastic bags may face fines up to $67,000

WELLINGTON: New Zealand officially banned single-use plastic shopping bags Monday, introducing hefty fines for businesses that continue to provide them.
Plastic pollution has become a growing global concern, with a million birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals injured or killed every year by becoming entangled in packaging or ingesting it through the food chain.
Companies that break New Zealand's ban will face heavy penalties, including fines of up to $67,000.
"New Zealanders are proud of our country's clean, green reputation and want to help ensure we live up to it," environment minister Eugenie Sage said.
"Ending the use of single-use plastic shopping bags helps do that."
Under the new rules, thin plastic single-use shopping bags can no longer be supplied -- but the law allows reusable carriers to continue being provided.
The legislation -- which was announced in August last year and came into force on Monday -- will have little practical effect, as New Zealand's major supermarkets have already voluntarily banned the bags.
However, Sage said it was putting the issue of recycling on the agenda.
"(The ban) doesn't go far enough, but what is really great is it's started the conversation," she told Radio New Zealand.
"People are now talking about single-use plastics and how we can phase them out."
Britain's Royal Statistical Society estimates 90.5 percent of all plastic waste -- some 6,300 million metric tons -- has never been recycled and is either in landfill or accumulating in the natural environment.
If current production and waste management trends continue, the ocean of plastic waste is estimated to almost double to 12,000 million metric tons by 2050.
More than 80 countries have already introduced bag bans similar to New Zealand's, according to the UN Environment Programme.
While it praised such initiatives, it said more needed to be done to minimise other sources of plastic waste including microbeads and single-use items such as straws.
Canada last month announced plans to ban disposable plastic items such as straws, cutlery and stir sticks from 2021.
The Pacific nation of Vanuatu will implement a ban in December on disposable diapers, which not only have non-biodegradable plastic linings but also use chemical absorbents which leach into the environment.
Sage said the New Zealand government was committing $27 million to find ways to reuse plastic waste instead of sending it to landfill overseas.
"We have been sending our waste offshore for too long," she said.
"China and other countries refusing to take our waste is the wake-up call we need."
The issue of wealthy developed nations using poorer countries as trash dumps was highlighted this week when Canada had to accept back tonnes of rubbish it shipped to the Philippines years ago.
For years, China received the bulk of scrap plastic from around the world, but closed its doors to foreign refuse last year in an effort to clean up its environment.


India, Pakistan exchange fire in Kashmir, killing 9

Updated 20 October 2019

India, Pakistan exchange fire in Kashmir, killing 9

  • Pakistan’s army later said that “unprovoked cease-fire violations” by Indian troops killed five civilians and one soldier
  • India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India: Pakistani and Indian soldiers traded fire in disputed Kashmir on Sunday, killing at least nine people on both sides, officials said.
The Indian military said Pakistani soldiers targeted an Indian border post and civilian areas along the highly militarized frontier in Kashmir early in the day, leaving two army soldiers and a civilian dead.
Col. Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman, said three Indian civilians were also injured in the Pakistani firing. Kalia called it an “unprovoked” violation of a 2003 cease-fire accord between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan’s army later said that “unprovoked cease-fire violations” by Indian troops killed five civilians and one soldier and wounded another three civilians and two troops across the highly militarized Line of Control that divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India.
The army said Indian troops targeted civilians in Jura, Shahkot and Nousehri sectors. It said Pakistani forces responded with heavy fire on Indian soldiers.
India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir, which is divided between the rivals but claimed by both in its entirety. The renewed fighting comes amid an ongoing lockdown in Kashmir that was put in place after India stripped the region of its semi-autonomy in early August.
Since then, soldiers from the two nations have regularly engaged in cross-border shelling and firing along their de facto frontier in Kashmir, where rebel groups are fighting for the territory to be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. In the past, each side has accused the other of starting the hostilities in violation of the 2003 accord.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training anti-India rebels and also helping them by providing gunfire as cover for incursions into the Indian side. Pakistan denies this, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
On Aug. 5, India’s Hindu nationalist-led government stripped Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status and imposed a strict crackdown, sending in tens of thousands more additional troops to the region, which is already one of the highest militarized zones in the world. India has arrested thousands of activists and separatist leaders in the days leading up to and after the revoking of Kashmir’s special status.
More than two months later, the region remains under a communications blockade. Authorities have restored landline and some cellphone services, but the Internet remains suspended.