July 1 marks the first day of a ban on single-use plastic bags across New Zealand, including bans on biodegradable, compostable and oxy-degradable plastics bags.
In order to reduce the amount of plastic in the country, retailers in New Zealand can no longer provide customers with single-use plastic bags.
The ban applies to all new single-use plastic shopping bags with handles that are made of plastic up to 70 microns in thickness.
- Light-weight plastic bags commonly found at supermarket, takeaway food and other retail checkouts;
- Heavier boutique-style plastic shopping bags commonly found at department or clothing stores; and
- Emergency bags offered by some supermarkets as an alternative to a free single-use plastic bag.
The ban includes bags made of degradable plastic – regardless of whether the plastic material is made from fossil-fuel or biological sources such as plants.
However, not all single-use bags are banned as bin liners, bags used to collect pet waste, and barrier bags used when buying meat and fruit and vegetables are exempt.
On June 30, New Zealand Associate Environment Minister, Eugenie Sage, said ending the use of single-use plastic shopping bags will help New Zealand live up to its clean and green reputation.
“The ban should ensure less plastic ends up in rivers, streams, storm-water systems and the ocean so seabirds, fish, turtles, and marine mammals are less vulnerable to being harmed by it.
“The plastic shopping bag ban is one step to tackling New Zealand’s waste issues. We also need to recharge our materials recovery and recycling systems and shift to a circular economy,” Sage said.
Mainstream supermarkets in New Zealand have already made the change away from single-use plastic shopping bags and report that this has stopped tens of millions of bags being handed out.
New Zealand Ministry for the Environment research indicated that 56 per cent of shoppers in April 2018 brought reusable bags, increasing to 91 per cent “always” or “often” bringing their own reusable bag in September 2018.
“Government regulations and the sum of many individual actions make a difference,” Sage said.
Businesses were given six months ahead of the ban to phase-out single-use plastic bags.
The New Zealand Ministry for the Environment highlighted long-life reusable bags in heavier-duty plastics, lightweight synthetic fabric bags and cotton, canvas, jute and hessian bags as good alternatives for carrying purchased goods.