Axe looms for plastic bags

Retailers caught flouting the ban of single-use plastic bags, will be given the chance to mend their ways before being hit with a fine.

The government says retailers should be well prepared for the ban, which comes into force tomorrow – Monday 1 July.

Associate Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage, said it was a positive step for towards cleaner healthier oceans.

“The ban should ensure less plastic ends up in rivers, streams, stormwater systems and the ocean so seabirds, fish, turtles, and marine mammals are less vulnerable to being harmed by it.”

“At the start of plastic-free July, the plastic shopping bag ban is one step to tackling New Zealand’s waste issues,” she said.

Businesses have had six months to prepare for the ban, which did not include plastic bags used for bread, deli or meat products.

Shoppers had already made a huge shift in behaviour around plastic shopping bags, with a Ministry for the Environment survey showing that 91% always/often brought their own reusable bag.

People would be able to report retailers who continued to hand out plastic bags, but Ms Sage said the Ministry would try to educate shop owners before penalising them.

“There’s a lot of online information on the Ministry for the Environment’s website for businesses and for customers who see people using them.”

“But the focus is on education, the ministry will be contacting businesses that are still using them after the first of July explaining what the alternatives are and how they can make the change,” she said.