Associate Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage has today confirmed retailers will no longer be able to sell or give away single-use plastic shopping bags from 1 July 2019, after Cabinet agreed to the proposed regulations for a mandatory nationwide phase-out of these bags.

“Plastic shopping bags are a hazard for nature, particularly marine wildlife. They can also introduce harmful microplastics into the food chain,” said Eugenie Sage.

“These regulations are an important first step to tackle New Zealand’s wider waste problem. Importantly, the mandatory phase-out of single-use plastic shopping bags signals that we need to do things very differently – manufacturers, retailers and consumers all have a responsibility to reduce waste and prevent plastic pollution”.

The public consultation ran from 10 August – 14 September 2018 and showed strong support for the proposed regulations, with 92 per cent of submitters agreeing we should no longer have single-use plastic shopping bags in New Zealand.

The phase out will apply to all new plastic shopping bags with handles that are made of plastic up to 70 microns in thickness. This includes light-weight supermarket bags, heavier boutique-style shopping bags and the ‘emergency’ bags currently offered by some supermarkets as an alternative to a free single-use bag. It will also include bags fitting this description made of degradable plastic (ie. biodegradable, compostable and oxy-degradable) regardless of whether the plastic material is sourced from fossil-fuel, synthetic compounds or from biological sources such as plants.

The phase out marks the start of a significant Government programme to reduce waste and build the foundations for New Zealand’s transition to a ‘circular economy’ approach, where eventually waste will be designed out of the system.

“We have an ambitious programme underway to turn around New Zealand’s poor track record on waste,” said Eugenie Sage.

“This includes expanding the waste disposal levy to all landfills and improving our data on waste and resource recovery, investing more strategically in infrastructure and innovation, and a greater focus on product stewardship for problematic waste streams such as vehicle tyres and e-waste.

“New Zealand has recently become a signatory to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment – a global pledge to address the root causes of plastic pollution – and this work programme will help us deliver on our commitment,” she said.

Information about the mandatory phase-out of single-use plastic shopping bags in New Zealand can be found on the Ministry for the Environment’s website at www.mfe.govt.nz/plasticbags.