The Ministry for the Environment has only received one report of a business providing a banned plastic shopping bag less than a day into the ban.

The ban, which kicked in today, prohibits retailers from supplying single-use plastic bags and those who do could face a fine of up to $100,000.

All plastic bags with handles, including thicker boutique-style bags, and any described as biodegradable, fall under the ban.

In a bid to crack down on businesses who continue to supply plastic bags, the Ministry for the Environment has developed an online complaints portal.


Asked at 4.30pm how many reports had been filed, a spokesman for the ministry told the Herald only one had been reported.

Retail NZ general manager of public affairs Greg Harford speculated only smaller independent operators would be caught out, thinking it applied only to large chains.

"There's still a bit of education to do but most businesses are on track to stop issuing bags," he said.

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage. Photo / Duncan Brown
Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage. Photo / Duncan Brown

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage said conversations around a potential ban started following an outcry from the public.

Sage said her inbox, along with the Prime Minister's, had been flooded with concerns from young people, more than any other topic.

"They have helped create the change here," she told Si and Phil Afternoons on Newstalk ZB this afternoon.

"I think of my Grandmother, she didn't use plastic bags, it's just a habit that we got into and it's a habit we can change."

Illustration / Rod Emmerson
Illustration / Rod Emmerson

Businesses who fail to comply with the new law face prosecution under the Waste Minimisation Act but a court would need to determine a penalty.


The ministry said it doesn't have any targets to prosecute, meanwhile, but it has promised breaches will be enforced.

In the event of a breach, ministry officers would contact and work with the business to find out why they hadn't stopped giving out banned bags.

Random retail precinct audits to asses levels of compliance are also planned to be carried out by the ministry, which will advise retailers where changes are required.