New World is asking customers to vote on whether to keep plastic bags free - or to introduce a five or 10 cent charge for each bag.

The supermarket chain said if customers vote to pay for bags, it will give the proceeds away to a variety of community and environmental causes including Seacleaners, who work to remove rubbish from New Zealand waterways.

New World customers can submit a vote online at www.bagvote.co.nz from today through to midnight on 8 October 2017.

New World will publish the results on October 10.

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"We have been working on a wide variety of environmental initiatives for years now, but the one issue that seems to really energise our customers is the topic of plastic shopping bags," Foodstuffs managing director Steve Anderson.

"We believe the best way forward is to work with our customers and ask them what they want for the future," he said.

"The majority decision in BAGVOTE will rule - but regardless of the outcome, we'll continue to work on reducing plastic bag use, providing more reusable bag options and increasing soft plastics recycling."

Seacleaners Captain Hayden Smith, who was voted Local Hero in 2017, said "every day we see the effect of improper use and disposal of plastic bags in our waterways."

"When New World asked us to get on board and help promote awareness of the BAGVOTE we were really happy to support them," Smith said.

"We hope that New Zealanders make the simple change to using more cloth reusable bags, and accept a charge for plastic bags if they absolutely need one."