Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage has clarified the Government's stance on single-use plastic bags, following news reports a nationwide ban is imminent.

Newshub reported the Government was set to introduce a ban and quoted Sage as saying an announcement could happen in "the next few months".

After the Herald contacted Sage's office for clarification this afternoon, the minister said no such call had been made.

"Today I repeated my preference for a ban on single-use plastic bags," she said.


"The Government has not yet made a decision on how to get rid of these bags."

Officials at the Ministry for the Environment were working on options and a decision would be made after that information has been considered.

"My current preference is to phase out single-use plastic bags, rather than put a levy on them."

Her comments come after 12 companies marked World Environment Day by committing to using 100 per cent recyclable packaging by 2025.

New Zealand-based Foodstuffs, Countdown, New Zealand Post and Frucor Suntory, and multinationals Amcor, Danone, L'Oreal, Mars, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Unilever and Nestle signed the NZ Plastic Packaging Declaration.

Countdown, Fresh Choice and SuperValue announced they would phase out plastic straws by October 1 this year and move towards 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by at least 2025.

Countdown's general manager of corporate affairs Kiri Hannifin said that by phasing out plastic straws the company would be removing 11.6 million of them from landfills every year.

Foodstuffs was also trialling asking customers to bring their own containers to Howick New World to be filled with meat from the butchery or seafood.


L'Oreal last year replaced virgin materials with 7294 tonnes of recycled materials, an increase of 10 per cent on 2016. In 2017, the group's Redken, Kiehl's and Pureology brands for example, launched 250ml shampoo bottles made from 100 per cent recycled plastic.

Scientists estimate that more than 150 million tonnes of plastics are in the ocean and if nothing changes plastic in oceans will weigh more than fish by 2050.

"We need to move to a circular economy by designing waste out of our economic system and creating and buying products designed to have a long life, which can be easily disassembled so they can reused, recycled or composted," Sage said.

However, Greenpeace was sceptical of the companies' new pledge, calling it an "industry-led false solution".

"The crucial word missing in that pledge is 'reduction," Greenpeace oceans campaigner Emily Hunter said.

"We need to be wary of pledges like this that sound good, but in reality allow the rise of plastic packaging production in our lives and our oceans, all while companies pose as green leaders."


Greenpeace wanted the Government to enact a plastic pollution strategy that started with a comprehensive ban on plastic bags, then moved into eliminating other avoidable single-use plastics, like straws, cutlery and stir sticks, and finally resulted in a nationwide container deposit scheme to ensure better collection with drink bottles.

The group also applauded Sage's desire to ban plastic bags, but warned if the ban wasn't comprehensive, it could fail.

"It's very encouraging to hear the Associate Minister Sage is keen on banning single-use plastic bags in the wake of our 72,000 people-powered petition and a letter signed by Jane Goodall, Helen Clark and Sam Neill, plus a number of retailers, and commitments to ditch single-use plastic bags by the two biggest supermarkets," Hunter said.