Last year in December, the Waste Minimisation Regulations announced a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags. The ban on shopping bags under 70 microns thick goes into effect as of today, July 1st. While supermarkets have been free of single-use plastic bags for some time now, every business across New Zealand that sells goods, including sales directly to consumers, business-to-business transactions and online sales, will be forced to purge themselves of single-use bags.
While larger retailers may have the capital to absorb the changes and make an appropriate switch to a reusable/sustainable replacement, smaller shops, like local fish and chip shops and smaller family-operated cafes, for instance, are likely to feel the brunt of the change. The Ministry for the Environment has supplied several suggestions that are supposed to aid in making the required changes. One proposal that the Ministry made is offering customers incentive to use alternatives, like a small discount or a loyalty card should they use a single-use alternative. Another suggestion that is relevant to the foodservice industry is transparency. If you are upfront with your customers in the preceding month, the change will come as less of a surprise, and there will be a smoother transition for all involved. For cafés or restaurants who supply large quantities to customers, or who cater, switching to cardboard boxes, for instance, is one way to avoid the plastic bag.
It is crucial for businesses to heed the change, as parties who deliberately disobey the law could be fined up to $100,000. Having said this, however, it is evident that there is a desire for change in New Zealand. The Ministry’s research indicated that reducing waste is rated by New Zealanders as the second equal most important challenge facing our country over the next 20 years behind reducing child poverty.