Kiwi consumers are helping save the environment with their wallets as more ditch plastic bags while shopping - and more are likely if the majority of our mayors succeed in introducing a Government-backed surcharge.
The number of single use plastic bags issued at The Warehouse stores has declined by 67 per cent since the company started charging 10c for them in April 2009.
The Warehouse Group's environmental initiatives manager Greg Nelson described the reduction as "sharp and sustained".
In the 12 months to February 2017 The Warehouse, which has more than 90 stores around the country, ordered about 12.7 million plastic bags, compared to 14.1 million the previous year.
The proceeds from the sale of plastic bags at each store are donated to local charities, schools, kindies, Plunket and community groups.
More than $3.8 million has been raised through The Warehouse's Bags for Good initiative since 2009, with $412,600 going to non-profit causes last year.
The release of the figures on plastic bag usage from the chain comes after 65 mayors and chair people from councils all over New Zealand recently signed a letter calling on the Government to introduce a levy on plastic bags or give councils the power to.
Every year Kiwis throw away 1.6 billion plastic bags, according to the Ministry for the Environment.
Many end up in our waterways and can be deadly to marine life.
Sustainable Coastlines volunteers and staff have picked up 140,000 plastic bags from New Zealand beaches and coasts since the charity began, founder Sam Judd said, and 75 per cent of the total rubbish they collect is single use plastic.
Retailers in Titirangi, west Auckland are also on board with a locally-led campaign for the suburb to become New Zealand's first to be plastic free, encouraging shoppers to opt for reusable bags rather than single use plastic.
Michele Powles, a member of the community action group Love Titirangi, said in the three weeks since the initiative launched on July 2 (the day before international plastic bag free day) about 1500 fabric bags had been provided to local stores for customers to use and return as more residents got behind it.
"The supermarket is obviously the place where the biggest volume of plastic bags go through and they are reporting a huge drop in the number of plastic bags - so much that we can't keep up with the demand for the reusable bags.
"The liquor store has now stopped offering plastic bags completely and you have to ask specifically if you want one. They're estimating that they're only getting about 5 per cent of people now wanting to use plastic bags, so that's pretty great in the short amount of time."
The group hoped to keep the momentum for the cause going and was looking at other ways to reduce waste, she said.
Other communities around Auckland were now starting to make their own bags for locals to use, Powles told the Herald on Sunday.
"Now we'd like some active support from the Government really because there seems to be a lot of community ground swell support to make this happen."
Although Love Titirangi would prefer plastic bags to be banned completely, members were willing to support the introduction of a levy, Powles said
"Obviously there are a lot of complications behind that and there's a lot of politics behind that and how much the levy is and where the money goes and all of those sorts of questions are something that needs to be looked through."
"But it's already been done overseas so it's not like you need to reinvent the wheel."
In the UK consumption of single use plastic bags plummeted by more than 85 per cent eight months after the government introduced a mandatory 5p charge per bag in October 2015.
The revenue generated from the sale of plastic bags there is donated to charity.
If New Zealand had had a similar levy on plastic bags last year about $160 million from sales would have gone to not-for-profits if consumption had stayed the same and if their usage had declined by 85 per cent, charities would have got $24 million.
Despite pressure from local body leaders, particularly Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, central government has ruled out following the UK's lead with Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith instead throwing his support behind a soft-plastics recycling project.
But environmental charities say a levy would make sense and the funds it would generate would help them do more.
Matt Dagger, general manager of Wellington's Kaibosh, said redistributing money from plastic bag sales to sustainability focused not-for-profits was a "natural fit".
"The introduction of such a levy would be done with a view to mitigate the environmental damage from plastic bags."
As a small organisation Kaibosh, which collects about 20,000kg of quality unused food from retailers every month and distributes it to people in poverty by linking with community groups who already have contact with those in need, doesn't qualify for government funding, Dagger said.
So getting a boost in funding through a levy would "be unreal".
Sustainable Coastlines founder Sam Judd said introducing a levy and using money generated from it to fund environmental work would be like a "double-edged sword".
"It reduces consumption and it can fund the kind of work that further reduce consumption and impact littering behaviour."