"We're phasing-out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand's clean, green reputation… Every year in New Zealand we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags – a mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life," Ardern was quoted as saying by the stuff.co.nz news website.
Ardern added that in the letters that school children address to her, concerns over the use of plastic were the most frequently raised. At the same time, some 65,000 New Zealanders signed a petition advocating a plastic bags ban in 2018.
The move was welcomed by non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace.
"In growing numbers over the last decade, New Zealanders have been calling for a ban on single-use plastic bags. Today marks the beginning of the end for over 2 billion single-use plastic bags that clog our communities, coasts, rubbish dumps and oceans each year," Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Emily Hunter said, as quoted by the media outlet.
According to the 2015 Global Ocean Commission's estimates, if serious changes are not introduced, the annual level of plastic pollution can reach 500 million tonnes by 2020.