• Rebbecca Page

Count down to plastic bag phase out!

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

1 July 2019 signals the beginning of the end for the supply and sale of many single use plastic bags in New Zealand. Confused by what it means for your business?

What is happening?

Change is on its way and it signals the end of many types of single use plastic bags. With the implementation of new legislation on 1 July 2019 banning the supply and sale of many single use plastic bags by all retailers (including on-line and not-for profit organisations); several New Zealand businesses are already ahead of the deadline and have moved away from single use plastic bags. New Zealand has traditionally churned through about one billion lightweight plastic bags each year, for many businesses and consumers the elimination of these will require a change in thinking and process. It is quite clear that single use plastic bags have had increased exposure as environmental villains; social media has no shortage of images, usually where marine life has mistaken opaque floating items for morsels of food. This of course has tragic consequences. Beyond this however, the bags have a variety of impacts - very few are good.

How will the changes impact me?

The Waste Minimisation (Plastic Shopping Bags) Regulations 2018 shouldn't come as a shock to any of New Zealand's retailers; there have been discussions, debates, media releases and the product changes that are occurring in the plastics market itself. What does it mean though?

What has been banned?

  • Made of any type of plastic less than 70 microns in thickness, including plastics made from bio-based materials such as starch and plastics that are designed to be degradable, biodegradable or oxo-degradable

  • Have carry handles

  • Are new or unused

  • Are provided for the purpose of distributing sold goods.

This will include the thicker 'reusable' bags currently available from supermarkets for 15 cents due to being under 70 microns thick.

So what is still allowed?

  • Bags without handles including light-weight ‘barrier bags’ (eg, bags without handles used for containing meat and/or produce)

  • Bin liners

  • Bags for pet waste

  • Bags that form an integral part of a product’s packaging (eg, sealed pouches with handles)

  • Bags made from bio-based materials that have not been converted to plastic (eg, cotton, jute, hemp, paper, flax)

  • Long-life multi-use shopping bags made from synthetic fabric between 45 and 70 microns in thickness.

What can I use to carry my goods home now?

Many retailers already supply low-cost reusable bags for purchase, some of these also provide additional advertising benefit as they will often carry logos or marketing information. Those retailers who have a supply of cardboard boxes resulting from their supply chain may find it useful to provide them to their customers. This gives the box another life before recycling as well.

Alternatives to single-use plastic shopping bags include bags made from bio-based materials that have not been converted to plastic (eg, cotton, jute, hemp, paper, flax) and long-life multi-use shopping bags.

Paper shopping bags remain an option for retailers although the Ministry is encouraging a move away from single-use options (no matter the material). The benefit to paper bags is that once they are no longer useable, they can be put straight in the compo.

Shoppers also have the option of bringing their own wheeled trolley bags, backpacks and home-made bags. Tip: It is easy to recycle an old singlet into a reusable bag by simply sewing or knotting the bottom, and using the shoulder straps as handles.

What about the bags I have in stock at 1 July?

The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) have clarified that from 1 July, any remaining plastic bags held by retailers will not be able to be sold or provided to customers for the purpose of carrying or distributing their sold goods. Local recyclers and plastics manufacturers may be able to assist with recycling unused new bags. It is strongly recommend against sending surplus bags to landfill.

How will the ban be enforced?

The Ministry will provide an online form via their website that consumers, retailers and suppliers can use to notify the Ministry of non-compliance by retailers.

They will respond to complaints received through the online process and follow these up directly with the retailer involved.

The Ministry will be seeking to work with retailers in initially, offering education and advice to help retailers comply. There is scope in the Waste Minimisation Act for fines to be issued when parties deliberately contravene regulations under the Act.

#plastic #sustainability #environment #change

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