The products will be phased out in three stages beginning late next year, as the government moves to ban hard-to-recycle products by mid-2025.
New Zealand is currently one of the world’s biggest producers of landfill waste per capita and the new policy will remove more than 2 billion single-use plastic products from the country’s waste cycle each year.
“Every day, New Zealanders throw away an estimated 159g of plastic waste per person, making us some of the highest waste generators in the world,” the environment minister, David Parker, said on Sunday.
The ban will phase out food and drink packaging made from PVC and polystyrene, as well as some degradable plastic products.
Drink stirrers, cotton buddies, produce bags, cutlery, plates and bowls, straws and fruit labels are also among the items that will be phased out as part of the programme.
But single-use cups, wet wipes and some types of expanded polystyrene used to transport cold goods or protect large items are not included in the ban.
“Phasing out unnecessary and problematic plastics will help reduce waste to landfill, improve our recycling system and encourage reusable or environmentally responsible alternatives,” Mr Parker continued.
A new plastics innovation fund will be launched to help find alternatives to plastics.
The environmental organisation Greenpeace welcomed the New Zealand government’s announcement but called for the ban to cover a wider range of products, including single-use plastics drink bottles such as Coke and Pepsi.
“This new commitment to phase out single-use plastics is a win for nature and a win for people power – but it needs to go further if we are to have any hope of averting the plastic pollution crisis,” said Greenpeace Aotearoa [New Zealand] plastic campaigner, Juressa Lee.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a worldwide increase in plastic use and while some has been driven by necessity – personal protective equipment, for example – others have arisen out of hygiene fears over reusable alternatives.
Many restaurants and fast-food chains have opted to switch to take-away operations during lockdowns, bringing with them a mountain of disposable utensils and containers.
Plastic wreaks havoc on marine ecosystems: it takes decades to degrade and microscopic particles have been found inside the bodies of fish, birds and other animals.
At least 600 wildlife species are impacted by ocean rubbish, according to Ocean Conservancy.