Govt to phase out single-use plastic bags

Scientists estimate that eight million tonnes of plastic enter the world's oceans every year....
Scientists estimate that eight million tonnes of plastic enter the world's oceans every year. Photo: Getty Images
The Government is pledging to rid the country of single-use plastic bags within a year's time.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage made the commitment at Wellington's Lyall Bay beach this morning.

This year 65,000 Kiwis signed a petition calling for an outright ban, and Ms Ardern said they were listening to those demands.

"Every year in New Zealand we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags - a mountain of bags."

New Zealand is one of the highest producers of urban waste in the developed world, per capita, according to OECD data.

Ms Ardern said many plastic bags end up polluting the country's coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life.

"And all of this when there are viable alternatives for consumers and business. It's great that many people are already changing the way they shop but it's important we take the time now to get this right."

Ms Sage wanted the public to give feedback on the best ways for this ban to be phased in - and has opened consultation until 14 September.

She wanted feedback on all aspects of the change, including options for the date the phase-out is to be complete by, what bags should be included, any retailers that should be exempted, and how best to help people with the transition.

"Public calls for action have encouraged a significant number of retailers, including supermarkets, to move on single-use plastic bags. We want to support their efforts by ensuring the retail industry moves together in a fair and effective way," she said.

Ms Sage said many countries and major cities around the world have successfully taken action on plastic pollution in recent years, and she was confident New Zealanders could also embrace the change.

Scientists also estimate that eight million tonnes of plastic enter the world's oceans every year, and if nothing changed, there could be more plastic in our oceans (by weight) than fish by the year 2050.

Recently 13 local and multi-national companies committed to use 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in their New Zealand operations by 2025 or earlier.

What you need to know about the mandatory phase-out plans:

Which bags does this ban include?

'Single-use plastic shopping bag' refers to those with handles commonly found at supermarket and other retail checkouts, and potentially thicker bags provided by some retailers.

As part of the consultation process, the government is looking into the maximum level of thickness that should be allowed.
The consultation document has more information on the different types of bags being considered.

Are biodegradable and compostable bags included in this consultation?

The proposed mandatory phase-out includes "biodegradable", "oxo-degradable" and "compostable" bags - all types of degradable plastics.

The government is recommending reusable bags over single-use alternatives for now because New Zealand does not yet have the nationwide infrastructure established to ensure that biodegradable and compostable plastics are processed in the right way.

Biodegradable and compostable plastics can be as harmful to nature as their non-biodegradable counterparts if they do not enter an environment that they are designed to break down in. Oxo-degradable bags break down into microplastics, rather than nutrients and materials which nature can absorb.

Why are you only consulting on a mandatory phase-out - why not a levy?

The Government believes a mandatory phase-out is more effective and of less cost to the public as it can be done under existing legislation through regulations under the Waste Minimisation Act, whereas a levy or mandated charge would require new legislation.

It also said introducing a legislated levy or mandated charge over the top of supermarkets taking recent action to ban plastic bags would be inconsistent and create confusion.

How will I get my shopping home if I forget my bags?

The Government is proposing to give people a long lead in so that the public has time to adjust to reusable bags along with retailers who have yet to make the change.

It also recommends customers take advantage of the offer by some supermarkets to use low-cost reusable bags or free used cardboard boxes. Or to bring their own wheeled trolley bags, backpacks or home-made bags.

Retailers are also being told to consider alternatives to single-use plastic bags, including reusable bags in heavier-duty plastic, composite bags of hessian with other materials, and long-lasting bags made of lightweight nylon, cotton, recycled fabric or jute.



Just happened in Queensland and to be fair it is stink, the plastic bags we used to get were always (R) always used for rubbish bags in our house. Now we have to purchase the same thing as rubbish bags. We have Aldi reusable bags for Aldi in the car but Coles and Woolworths counters are not set up for pack your own and they now take ages to pack shopping. - it is so slow. As a result I leave all our bags in the car and pack the bags at our car. Even if it is a small amount of shopping I need I now always grab a trolley and use a trolley, where before hand I'd use a basket. Plus as my sign as disapproval of no plastic bags I now leave the trolley near my car and will not return it to the trolley stand. IMHO all that has happened is Supermarkets are now charging for bags, People are still paying that cost for the old bags which would have been an operating cost to the supermarkets and small shops included in the price of goods, I'm yet to see any costs go down as a result of no bags, all i is a licence for shops to make extra coin. I suspect that Pack n save in NZ will be the only supermarket set up for this, Coles and Woolworths in Aussie need to re configure the counters.

Our current government is focusing on plastic bags whilst the economy is going to the dogs. I wonder if their priorities are sorted? I first used biodegradable bags used in Europe 10 years- they totally fall to bits/nothing. So why not..? (microbeads)

The next step may mean banning all plastic fibre based clothing- as microfibres wash out each time you do the laundry. How about banning all hydro-carbons... Bring on the shanks pony and the horse and cart..

Another virtue signal.
Almost all the plastic waste in the oceans is from 9 Asian rivers, not from NZ families using their ‘single use’ bags multiple times.
You’ll end up paying supermarkets for bigger and thicker bags that are worse for the environment, become too heavy for many people, and become befouled with the residue of numerous uses.
If you want to be serious, ban ALL plastic from shops, then see how you get on.
Again, the public is played for suckers by the green-left mob. But, by gee, it makes you feel worthy.