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Asia Minute: New Zealand’s Plastic Battle

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Single use plastic bags are banned in Hawai?i — or at least they require an additional cash payment. Dozens of locations around the world now restrict the use of plastic bags, and one of the latest is New Zealand.

It’s been just about three weeks since New Zealand banned single-use plastic bags. The head of the country’s main retail store lobby group says it’s been a successful move – as there was plenty of time to adjust to the pending ban.

Radio New Zealand says the Ministry for the Environment has received about 130 complaints about violations since the law took effect at the start of July.

Shoppers can now use fabric bags — or paper. But the most popular option seems to be a bio-degradable type of plastic made largely of corn starch.

There are some emerging questions about how effective a ban on plastic bags is when it comes to reducing the use of plastic.

A University of Sydney economist studied the results of a California bag ban with an eye to analyzing the behavior of consumers.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation says Rebecca Taylor found mixed results. She says consumers dealing with a ban on single use plastic bags usually buy more larger plastic bags — mostly to use in trash cans.

Because they are thicker than single-use bags, they take longer to break down in landfills. But the heavier bags are also less apt to blow away into streets and storm drains — and in coastal areas, into the ocean.

The economist says on net, the use of plastic is still reduced by a ban on small bags cut by about 70%.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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