Govt to phase-out single-use plastic bags

By Talisa Kupenga

The Government has announced it will phase out single-use plastic shopping bags over the next year to better look after the environment.

The proposed phase-out also includes biodegradable, oxo-degradable and compostable bags.

Single-use plastic bags could be less common at beach clean-ups with the government announcement.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says, "Here in New Zealand one of the top five items found in coastal litter is single-use plastic bags.  In fact, we spend an estimated $15 million purchasing single-use plastic bags in New Zealand alone."

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage says degradable bags will also be included in the mandatory phase-out.

“There are issues.  We don’t have a nationwide infrastructure for commercial composting… there are issues with greenwash, and there are also issues in terms of a lot of those degradable bags breaking down into micro-plastics so nature can’t absorb them.”

This year 65,000 kiwis petitioned for an outright plastic bag ban.  It's also the topic school children write to the PM the most about. 

Ten-year-old Gerardine Matafeo Solia is one of them.

"We should stop using plastic.  We need to help the environment.  This is our world and we need to look after what we have."

While National Leader Simon Bridges criticised the plastic bag ban as “low-hanging fruit that won’t make any real difference,” shoppers welcomed the change.

Fiona Walker says, "We try not to use plastic as much anymore as well.  It's good for the environment so we’re on board."

Hohepa Hana (Te Ati Awa) says, "It keeps it out of the water for people who do fishing.  I've [come across plastic bags] in the water a few times."

Chris Hana (Te Ati Awa) says, "I'm all for it.  I always try and reuse my bags and the less bags in the environment the better."

The Warehouse also announced it will ban all plastic bags within a year and is making moves to review its packaging too.

Chief Executive Pejman Okhovat says, “We produce around 70 percent of products that we sell ourselves so we can actually influence that.”

Countdown spokeswoman Kiri Hannafin says from Monday an additional 52 stores will take on the plastic-free initiative- not just at the check-out but online.

“Since May we’ve had ten stores go plastic bag-free and in those twelve weeks we’ve stopped five million bags going into the environment.  From Monday we’ll be saving around 3 million bags a week in those stores.”

The public has until September 14 to share their views.