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Reducing our environmental impact

Retailers, like all business owners and consumers, have a shared responsibility to reduce their environmental impact and are actively working to address sustainability issues. A particular challenge for our sector is packaging waste. Retail NZ has been working with others over many years to reduce the level of packaging waste generated and to minimise its impacts if it enters the environment.

The Government announced late last year that the phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags will come into force from 1 July 2019. This includes any bags made of any plastic material that is manufactured from any source (including a bio-based source), whether or not it is deigned to degrade in a particular way.

The regulations define a plastic shopping bag as a bag that is:

  • wholly or predominately made of plastic that is less than 70 microns in thickness
  • new or unused
  • has handles

Retailers will not be allowed to provide, or sell, plastic shopping bags to customers for the purpose of carrying goods, including online retailers.

We will keep you informed on this issue as progress unfolds, but in the meantime we recommend using up as much of your current stock on hand, if you use plastic bags weighing less than 70 microns and work towards a compliant solution.

Our Advice Service is here to assist you on this issue, and others, should you need some help. Don't hesitate to get in touch.

Soft-Plastic Packaging Recycling Scheme

Soft Plastics Recycling Pic

As of 31 December 2018, the Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme has suspended collections, with plans to resume a sustainable service in April 2019.

This suspension will give the Packaging Forum time to work with existing processing partners to build new and innovative solutions to soft plastic packing waste. The removal of single-use plastic shopping bags by a number of retailers across the country will contribute significantly to reducing volumes of plastic waste, however there is still a long way to go.

Retailers and the Packing Forum are committed to reducing plastic packing waste and finding sustainable, long term solutions.


There has been a lot of discussion recently about what can be done to reduce the number of plastic bags being issued. In a number of jurisdictions abroad, Government-mandated minimum charges have been applied which have successfully dampened consumer demand for bags.

In the New Zealand context, experience has shown that there can be significant consumer resistance to change, which means that no retail chain is really able to be the first mover on charges, ahead of any direct competitors. Under the Commerce Act, it's illegal for competitors to agree to fix prices for any product, including plastic bags; so while retailers can't collectively agree to introduce a charge. We're calling for the Government to introduce national legislation to deal with this issue.

  • Read our letter to the Associate Minister for the Environment here.

For the latest information on all of our advocacy work, members can check out this month's edition of Talking Shop (subscribe by emailing