What you need to know about the Government’s plastic shopping bag ban

With only three months to go before the plastic bag ban comes into force, here is what you need to know.

What types of bags are being phased out?

  • Single use shopping bags made of any type of plastic that are less than 70 microns in thickness, including plastics made from bio-based or plant-based materials and bags that are designed to be compostable, degradable, biodegradable or oxo-degradable 
  • Single-use plastic shopping bags are defined as:
    • Bags which have carry handles
    • Are new or unused
    • Are provided for the purpose of distributing sold goods.

What types of bags will still be in use?

  • Bags without handles, including light-weight ‘barrier bags’ (e.g. bags without handles used for containing meat and/or produce) and produce bags
  • Bin liners
  • Bags for pet waste
  • Bags that form an integral part of a product’s packaging (e.g. sealed pouches with handles)
  • Bags made from bio-based materials that have not been converted to plastic (e.g. cotton, jute, hemp, paper, flax)
  • Long-life multi-use shopping bags made from synthetic fabric between 45 and 70 microns in thickness (see the Ministry’s website for more detail).

Are the reusable plastic shopping bags currently sold for 15c in Countdown and other supermarkets over 70 microns?

No, they are under 70 microns and will be phased out before the ban.

What does a long- life multi-use shopping bag made from synthetic material look like?

These bags are designed to fit into handbags and pockets and often fold up into a pocket size.

When did the six-month transition or phase out period begin?

  • The phase out period began in December when the regulations were drawn up. So, from 1 July it will be illegal to hand out banned plastic shopping bags.

How will the ban be enforced?

  • The Ministry will provide an online form via their website that consumers, retailers and suppliers can use to notify the Ministry of non-compliance by retailers.
  • They will respond to complaints received through the online process and follow these up directly with the retailer involved.
  • The Ministry will be seeking to collaborate with retailers in the first instance taking an educational approach and offering advice to help retailers comply. However, the Waste Minimisation Act does allow for fines to be issued when parties deliberately contravene regulations under the Act.

Who does the ban apply to?

  • The ban applies to all retailers and food outlets in New Zealand regardless of type and size. Under the regulations a retailer is a person engaged in business in New Zealand that includes the sale of goods for monetary consideration.
  • This includes any kind of shop e.g. dairies, petrol stations, chemists, clothing shops, hardware shops, garden centres). It also applies to any food outlet which offers takeaway food e.g. cafes, fast food outlets etc.
  • This also includes:
    • online businesses that sell goods in New Zealand
    • not-for-profit organisations selling goods in New Zealand.

The regulations are intended to apply to a wide variety of retail situations from farmers markets to large department stores and malls.

Under the regulations, retailers must not provide (i.e. sell or give away for free) plastic shopping bags if these are provided to:

  • enable goods which have been sold or given away free by the retailer to be taken away from the point of exchange, or
  • enable goods which have been sold or given away free by the retailer to be delivered.

How can I help retailers prepare for the ban?

Contact your retailers and food outlets and ask them:

  1. Are you aware that the plastic bag ban which starts on the 1 July applies to your business?
  2. Have you thought about what you are you going to use instead of plastic bags?
  • Encourage your customers to bring their own reusable bags
  • Use empty cardboard cartons
  • Purchase paper bags
  1. Will you have used up all your existing stock of plastic bags by 1 July? If you will have lots of plastics bags left, you can:
  • use them as rubbish bin liners in your shop or at home
  • give them away to customers on 30 June

Will there be resources available for retailers to download and use?

The Ministry hopes to have resources available in early April.

The retailer tool kit will include:

  • A fact sheet with a summary of the regulations
  • Guidance information on alternative options to single-use plastic bags
  • Retailer tips – how to answer customer questions and questions to ask bag suppliers
  • Posters that can be downloaded i.e. “remember your bags” and banners for social media

More information can be found on the Ministry’s website here.

Green Business HQ has also produced some resources to help businesses prepare for the ban. Their resources are available now and can  be downloaded here.