Helen Clark has thrown her weight behind a campaign calling for a total ban on single-use plastic bags.

The former prime minister is backing a regulatory ban in her new position as patron of the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand, and has signed a letter that will be jointly presented with Greenpeace outside Parliament at midday tomorrow.

"The banning of single-use plastic bags from stores, communities and the environment would be a big step in the right direction towards achieving the targets of sustainable-development goals, a step where we are well behind many other countries which are enacting legislation," Clark said.

"I hope that the New Zealand Government, supported by corporations, community-based organisations and many New Zealanders, will ban the bag."


Other signatories of the letter, being presented to Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage along with a petition signed by 65,000 Kiwis, are companies, councils, non-governmental and community organisations including Countdown, Bunnings, Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, SPCA, Forest and Bird and the World Wildlife Fund.

Another high-profile Kiwi backing the push is actor Sam Neill, who shot a satirical video with Greenpeace that featured him eating a plastic bag, and which has been viewed more than 700,000 times.

Greenpeace campaigner Elena Di Palma said New Zealanders used around 1.6 billion bags each year, and each were used an average of just 12 minutes, despite taking up to 1000 years to degrade.

"The aim is to ban all single-use plastic bags - we really need to get single-use plastic out of our lives," Di Palma said.

"Plastic bottles, straws, plastic cutlery ... all have a terrible impact on our environment and are deadly to the creatures we share the seas with."

Some supermarkets have already moved to ban plastic bags.