As part of the international Plastic-Free July Campaign, Northland group Plastic-Free Whangarei has introduced vegetable and fruit bags made from net curtain cut-offs.

One of the five organisers, Tammy Fromont, said apart from the bags not being plastic, the appeal is that they are see-through and logo-free. In addition the group has been offering reusable plastic bags to visitors at the Whangarei Growers Market.

"What we have started is gaining momentum and finding favour with people who are really pleased to be involved. We want to keep it growing and get even more people interested in using reusable bags so we've come up with a new way of giving them a bag which doesn't cost the earth," she said.

Countdown Regent supermarket in Whangarei joined in the campaign by offering smaller bags with 25 per cent less plastic.


Andrew Porter, from the Four Square store in Russell, said the many Europeans who visit the Bay of Islands over summer, and those who live there full time, expect to be charged for using plastic and are surprised when they are not in New Zealand.

The Warehouse stores charge 10 cents for a lightweight plastic bag and that money is donated to local charities. There has been a reported 73 per cent drop in the number of plastic bags leaving the stores since the charge was introduced.

In Wales bag plastic bag use has dropped as much as 90 per cent when a law change introduced a mandatory five-pence charge on every bag with proceeds to charity.

In 2008 Rwanda banned the use or sale of all non-biodegradable plastic or polythene. Incoming tourists are warned before they land that plastic of any kind will be confiscated and failure to disclose plastic in their luggage could result in a fine. Owners of businesses violating the ban could face up to a year in prison. Although the enforcement has created a plastic bag black market with neighbouring countries, numerous international environmental agencies have praised the initiative as effective.

A remit from Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) has formally asked the Government to impose a compulsory levy on plastic shopping bags at the point of sale and sought to meet Dr Nick Smith, Minister for the Environment.

Dr Smith didn't support the remit and declined to discuss the issue with LGNZ.

Instead, he announced a $1.2 million government project partnering with the retail sector and packaging industry to allow the recycling of thousands of tonnes of plastics like shopping bags that currently cannot be recycled.