Greenpeace is throwing its weight behind the campaign to ban plastic bags from New Zealand supermarkets.

Today, the environmental group launched a new video and petition calling on the Government to ban the bag.

It comes on the back of the discovery of an enormous floating island of plastic, eight times the size of New Zealand, in the South Pacific. The island has been dubbed as “Plasticmania” by the children that appear in the Greenpeace video.

Campaigner, Elena Di Palma, says New Zealand’s plastic waste problem is quickly “spiralling out of control”.

“Plastics in our oceans is a massive unseen problem, and it’s our kids who will be left to clean up the mess,” she says.

“Kiwis use around 1.6 billion bags per year.  They are used for an average of only 12 minutes, yet each one can take 1,000 years to degrade. When you think about the implications of that, it’s frightening.”

Greenpeace New Zealand’s video launch also follows the announcement by two Australian supermarkets, Woolworths – a parent company of Countdown – and Coles, that they will stop giving single-use plastic bags to shoppers within the next year.

Plastics have a devastating effect on marine life. Fish, seabirds and other animals mistake the broken down bits of plastic for food. The effects are serious, and often lead to death.

Recent research shows that one-third of all turtles that wash up on New Zealand beaches have died from consuming plastic. Turtles are known to mistake plastic bags for their favourite food – jellyfish – and swallowing the plastic can be fatal for them. Plastic bottle tops, balloons, plastic cutlery, and straws are some of the worst culprits.

Di Palma says many people around the country will have seen the recent “excruciating” scene on social media of a straw being extracted from a turtle’s nose.

“I found the turtle video gut wrenching and difficult to watch,”she says.

“The children that appear in the Greenpeace video have a clear understanding of the magnitude of this problem. It’s them that will inherit our oceans’ legacy”.

It’s estimated that if we keep polluting at the current rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean within 33 years.

Many communities around New Zealand are realising the seriousness of this unseen problem and taking action.

“People everywhere are already doing their bit, from sewing cloth bags to buying reusable coffee cups, but now it’s time for the Government to step up and take immediate action,” says Di Palma.

A complete ban on plastic bags from supermarkets is the first step that must be taken on the road to phasing out all single-use plastics, she says.