The New Zealand government has announced plans to eliminate the use of single-use plastic shopping bags from 1 July 2019.


Image: New Zealand to phase out single-use plastic shopping bags. Photo: courtesy of alex_ugalek /

The cabinet has approved the proposed regulations for a mandatory nationwide phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags, said New Zealand environment minister Eugenie Sage.

As per the new regulations, the retailers must avoid the selling or offering single-use plastic shopping bags to the customers.

Sage said: “Plastic shopping bags are a hazard for nature, particularly marine wildlife. They can also introduce harmful microplastics into the food chain.

“These regulations are an important first step to tackle New Zealand’s wider waste problem. Importantly, the mandatory phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags signals that we need to do things very differently – manufacturers, retailers and consumers all have a responsibility to reduce waste and prevent plastic pollution.”

The decision to phase out single-use plastic bags was based on support from public for proposed regulations.

The government conducted public consultation from 10 August to 14 September on proposed regulations, which showed majority of public accepted to avoid the use of single-use plastic shopping bags.

The phase out is being applied to all new plastic shopping bags with handles that are made of plastic up to 70μ in thickness.

Light-weight supermarket bags, heavier boutique-style shopping bags and emergency bags currently provided by some supermarkets as an alternative to a free single-use bag will be banned under new regulations.

Bags made of degradable plastic, even they are sourced from fossil-fuel, synthetic compounds or biological sources such as plants, will also be banned.

The phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags is the first step of government program in its efforts to reduce waste and build the foundations for New Zealand’s transition to a circular economy approach.

Sage further added: “This includes expanding the waste disposal levy to all landfills and improving our data on waste and resource recovery, investing more strategically in infrastructure and innovation, and a greater focus on product stewardship for problematic waste streams such as vehicle tyres and e-waste.”