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'Extraordinary' effort from Kiwis sees plastic bags cut by a billion, one year on from ban – Ministry for the Environment

A year on from New Zealand banning single-use plastic bags from supermarkets and other retail stores, more than one billion bags are out of the system.

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Waste director Shaun Lewis said Kiwis have adapted to the ban well. Source: Breakfast

The decision to ban single-use plastic bags was made to try tackle the huge amount of plastic waste that clogs up landfills, pollutes waterways and kills wildlife.

Before the ban came in, it was estimated they were used for an average of 12 minutes each, but it took decades for a plastic bag to break down.

However on TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning, Ministry for the Environment waste director Shaun Lewis praised Kiwis for their quick adaption to the ban.

"It's been quite extraordinary, and probably important to know too that in the lead up to the actual ban itself, in the months leading up to the ban, 96 per cent of New Zealanders were already using reusable bags."

As well, there was a six month lead in period before the ban, but Mr Lewis said remaining Kiwis "switched pretty quick".

"It hasn't been too challenging and I think that's probably one of the main points that I want to get across is, you know, individually it's a small thing that people can do, but collectively we've taken 1.1 billion bags out of the system a year and that's quite extraordinary."

Now, the Government is looking at new ways to reduce plastic and phase out hard-to-recycle plastics, Mr Lewis said.

"Internationally there's quite a big awareness raising around marine plastics in particular and how much is getting into the marine environment, the impact that that has on sea life, also getting into the food chain - so globally there's a lot of awareness and I think people are responding to that well."