SAN FRANCISCO - MARCH 2: Recycled plastic bottles are seen at the San Francisco Recycling Center March 2, 2005 in San Francisco, California. Bottled water is the single largest growth area among all beverages, more than doubling over the last decade. Only about 12 percent of plastic bottles, mostly water, were recycled in 2003, according to industry consultant R.W. Beck, Inc. Since most bottled water is consumed away from home where recycling isn't an option, an estimated 40 million bottles a day go into the trash or become litter. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Authorities in Papua New Guinea are rolling out an 18-month grace period before a total ban on plastic bags, giving businesses and consumers time to prepare for the move and look for environmentally friendly alternatives, reported local media on Wednesday.

“The Government will not deviate from imposing a complete ban on the imports, manufacture and use of all plastic shopping bags in the country because plastic waste poses a significant threat to our marine resources and human health and wellbeing,” The National newspaper quoted Minister for the Environment, Conservation and Climate Change John Pundari as saying.

“But we cannot do that alone. We require support from the industries.”

“That’s why I am giving a grace period of 18 months … (starting May 1) for industries to get yourselves organized and ready for the ban which will be in November 2019.”

Pundari, who made the announcement after meeting industry players in the Oceanian country’s capital Port Moresby, said a previous announcement on a one-month grace period was for consultation.

Businesses that want to continue importing biodegradable plastic shopping bags have the option of paying a combined minimum levy of 20 million Papua New Guinean Kina (6.09 million U.S. dollars) annually to environmental protection authorities to help manage their plastic waste or use “eco-carry or paper bags” as alternatives, he said.

The United Nations has lauded the ban, lauding it as “timely and a step in the right direction.”

“Papua New Guineans depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihood,” UN resident coordinator Gianluca Rampolla was quoted as saying earlier in the week.

“With 7 percent of the world’s biodiversity found here in PNG, we must take every action to protect it as it is part of our common heritage and future.” Enditem

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