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Regulatory impact assessment: phasing out single-use plastic shopping bags

15 Nov 2018

Single-use plastic shopping bags have a negative impact on the environment at end of life. When inappropriately disposed of, these lightweight bags can easily be blown into freshwater and marine environments, where they can be a hazard to wildlife for decades and become harmful microplastics in the food chain.

The prevalence of single-use plastic shopping bags has been encouraged by the common retail practice of providing the bags free of charge. Consequently the cost is borne by all shoppers, including those who bring multi-use bags. Convenient and free access to single-use plastic shopping bags encourages and reinforces linear resource thinking and behaviour and consequent inefficient use of natural resources.

The money New Zealand spends on single-use plastic shopping bags results in only a temporary consumer benefit, and contributes to long-lasting environmental problems. The current ‘throwaway culture’ of the linear economy also occurs at a much larger scale in other New Zealand economic sectors. Single-use plastic shopping bags are an easily addressed example of this broader culture.

The scope for this RIS was determined by Cabinet, which has agreed in principle to a mandatory phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags subject to the outcome of consultation.

Public consultation took place from 10 August to 14 September 2018. A clear majority of submissions (92 per cent) agreed with the proposed mandatory phase out.

This is an Implementation Regulatory Impact Statement. It considers additional information gathered from public consultation to assess the most appropriate implementation specifics to best meet the objectives.

*Please note: a cabinet paper associated with this initiative is also available for download.

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