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New Zealand bans plastic bags to guard ecosystems, wildlife

By Clyde Hughes
New Zealand bans plastic bags to guard ecosystems, wildlife
Indian children play amid plastic waste at a landfill near the Arabian Sea coast in Mumbai, India, on June 22, 2018. File Photo by Divyakant Solanki/EPA-EFE

July 1 (UPI) -- New Zealand on Monday became the latest nation to ban outright the distribution of plastic bags at retailers, like grocery stores.

The ban, announced nearly a year ago, took effect Monday.

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Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage said the ban will reduce plastic into oceans, rivers, storm water systems and landfills, and will better protect marine wildlife.

"New Zealanders are proud of our country's clean, green reputation and want to help ensure we live up to it," Sage said. "Ending the use of single-use plastic shopping bags helps do that."

The environmental ministry says the ban affects bags made of any type of plastic under 70 microns in thickness, either new or unused and with handles. The banned bags cannot be given away or sold to customers.

Pet waste bags, bin liners and bags without handles used for perishable items are exempted from the ban.

Some, however, question how much difference the new law will make.

"These bags will go to the ocean," store owner Harjit Singh said of the exempted bags for pre-packaged items. "If they wanted to stop plastic it should be all the packaging."

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Several municipalities worldwide have implemented or will implement similar bans -- including New York City, which will ban plastic bags next spring.

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