Single-use plastic shopping bag ban kicks in on Monday

Time is up for the single-use plastic shopping bag, with the Government implementing a ban on Monday.

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage says ending their use is a step towards "healthier oceans and giving nature a hand".

"New regulations mean such businesses can no longer provide their customers with a single-use plastic shopping bag to carry their purchases," she said on Sunday.

"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."

Businesses were given six months before the ban to phase-out single-use plastic bags. Sage says the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) will be conducting "random retail precinct audits" to assess levels of compliance.

"The Government does not have prosecution targets or a goal to prosecute retailers. 

"If MfE end up needing to prosecute, they will - although they don't want to get to that point. If a prosecution is successful, the court is able to determine a financial penalty."

According to Sage, New Zealanders appear to have already made a rapid transition to reusable bags.

Survey research done for MfE shows an increase from 56 percent in April 2018 to 91 percent in September 2018 in the number of shoppers bringing their own reusable bag.

"Government regulations and the sum of many individual actions make a difference," Sage says.

"New Zealanders remembering to take their reusable bags is stopping tens of millions of single plastic bags becoming waste each year."