Single-use plastic bags to be phased out by the Government

Single-use plastic shopping bags will be phased out over the next year, the Government has announced. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage made the announcement on Friday, proposing a six-month phase-out period.

The move will help look after the environment and safeguard New Zealand's clean, green reputation, Ms Ardern says.

"We're listening to New Zealanders who want us to take action on this problem. This year 65,000 Kiwis signed a petition calling for an outright ban."

It is the biggest single subject school children write to Ms Ardern about, she says.

Children who wrote letters to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about plastic bags read them publicly on Friday.
Children who wrote letters to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about plastic bags read them publicly on Friday. Photo credit: Newshub

Each year hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bag end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environment causing serious harm to the environment, she says.

"We need to be far smarter in the way we manage waste and this is a good start.

"We are a Government determined to face up to New Zealand's environmental challenges. Just like climate change, we're taking meaningful steps to reduce plastics pollution so we don't pass this problem to future generations," Ms Ardern says.

Ms Sage was confident New Zealanders would embrace the change.

"Public calls for action have encouraged a significant number of retailers, including supermarkets, to move on single-use plastic bags. We want to support their efforts by ensuring the retail industry moves together in a fair and effective way."

Retail NZ says the announcement is great news.

"Retail NZ has been calling for Government leadership on this issue for some time now, and it is good news that the Government is stepping up to help retailers tackle the issue of reducing plastic waste," Retail NZ's General Manager for Public Affairs Greg Harford says.

Single-use plastic bags to be phased out by the Government
Photo credit: Newshub

National Party Simon Bridges says the plastic ban is "low-hanging fruit that won't make any real difference".

He says the Government has bigger issues to tackle.

"Now it's done though the Prime Minister should turn her attention to fixing the very real concerns around plummeting business confidence and our slowing economy," Mr Bridges says.

ACT Leader David Seymour says the ban will punish responsible consumers and could produce worse environmental outcomes. 

"Plastic waste gets into the environment as it's collected and transported to landfills. This isn't the fault of Kiwis who find plastic bags easy and convenient and dispose of them responsibly," Mr Seymour says.

The Government wants to hear from New Zealanders as to how they can best implement the change.

They plan to work alongside supermarkets and other retailers to help people make the change to reusable bags.

People have until Friday September 14 to make a submission.

How to make a submission 

You can make a submission in these ways.

  • Use the online submission tool, available at www.mfe.govt.nz/consultation/plasticshoppingbags
  • Download a copy of the submission form to complete and return to the Government. This is available at www.mfe.govt.nz/consultation/plasticshoppingbags. If you do not have access to a computer, a copy of the submission form can be posted to you.
  • Send a written submission to: Proposed Mandatory Phase Out of Single-use Plastic Shopping Bags, Ministry for the Environment, PO Box 10362, Wellington 6143. Include your name or organisation, your postal address, your telephone number and your email address.
  • Email a submission to plasticshoppingbags.submissions@mfe.govt.nz as a PDF or Word document.

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