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Government to ban single-use plastic bags by mid-2019

plastic bagsThe New Zealand government has confirmed that all single-use plastic bags will be banned by the middle of next year.

The ban, which applies to all retailers in the country, includes bags under 70 microns thick.

Industry body Retail NZ said it welcomes the government’s move to phase out plastic bags over the coming months.

“It is good news for the environment and the country that the government is now formalising its proposals to phase them out,” said Greg Harford, Retail NZ’s GM Public Affairs.

“Retailers large and small have been working hard over time to reduce or eliminate the number of plastic carrier bags being issued, and the formalisation of the phase out will ensure that there is a level playing field right across the retail sector.”

Last October, Woolworths-owned supermarket Countdown said it is now free from single-use plastic carrier bags.

All Countdown stores across the country had phased out the use of plastic bags by October 15, two and-a-half months ahead of schedule, and have been using reusable bags since.

According to the retailer, its move to phase out single-use plastic carrier bags will see 350 million of these bags no longer in circulation in New Zealand each year.

The Warehouse Group also announced in August that is taking steps to offer only reusable bags in stores.

“New Zealanders are concerned about the environment and the impacts of plastic pollution on marine life,” Harford said.

“We have seen a big rise in the number of customers taking their own reusable bags to the shops, so the phase-out will lock in the benefits of this into the future.”

As a consequence of the coming phase-out, however, retailers may be left with unused plastic bags even after the six-month transition window and will need to find an appropriate way of disposing of them. 

“We will be discussing this further to seek clarity over the coming months, to get the best environmental outcomes,” Harford said.

He added that they are also supporting the government’s decision to include so-called compostable, biodegradable and degradable bags in the phase-out.

“These products can still cause environmental harm, and we do not have the proper infrastructure in New Zealand to ensure that even compostable bags are dealt with at scale.”

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