The figures are stacked in favour of the environment when it comes to the ban on single-use plastic carrier bags.

The outlawing of the bags across the country came into effect on Monday and in the five days since, almost 14.5 million have been out of circulation.

That's how many single-use plastic bags were used each week by Kiwis at the shops before the ban began being phased in at supermarkets and retailers last year.

In total 750m single-use bags were being loaded with groceries, takeaway food, clothing, alcohol and convenience items each year in New Zealand.

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Now instead, Countdown says it has already diverted 278 million of the carrier bags from the country's waste stream since phasing in their own ban over the past couple of years.

The supermarket chain removed 1889 tonnes of plastic bags from circulation then, equivalent to almost eight fully-loaded jumbo jets.

Paradise restaurant was this week continuing to supply customers with single use plastic bags after the ban. Photo / Michael Craig
Paradise restaurant was this week continuing to supply customers with single use plastic bags after the ban. Photo / Michael Craig

As of last night the Ministry for the Environment had received 36 complaints that retailers - across the board - were not complying with the change.

One of those flouting the law was an Indian takeaway restaurant that cut off the handles of the bags to get around the rules.

Plastic bags without handles and those that have already been used are exempt.

Mana Honohono investments and partnerships director Shaun Lewis said the 35 reports of non-compliance were "unverified" and the ministry needed to follow up.

Lewis said the reports related to all retail outlets.

The plan is to follow up with the businesses complained about to check compliance.

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He said the reports of non-compliance were encouraging because it meant New Zealanders were paying attention to the issue.

Overall Lewis believed attitudes and behaviours had changed since the ban was signalled last August.

"There's no planet B". Foodstuffs has banned some plastic products from its supermarket shelves to help save the planet. Photo / Supplied

"It is a big change for New Zealanders and the retail sector but I'm really confident this is going to be part of how we do things round here."

Lewis described the intention of the ban as removing single-use plastic bags from our environment and efforts to flout the law were disappointing.

"Those kinds of approaches are not in line with the intention of the ban which was really well supported through our public consultation process.

"Single-use plastic bags are a problem and they're a problem because they do escape into the environment, we know that, and when they escape into the environment they cause problems for wildlife.

"They break up into smaller bits of plastic, micro plastics, which then end up in the food chain so for us at the end of the day they do end up either in the environment or in landfills."

Flouters face fines of up to $100,000 but Lewis said such a hard line would be last resort.

An initiative by Foodstuffs to giveaway two million reusable grocery bags has made the transition from single-use plastic carrier bags easy for customers. Photo / Supplied
An initiative by Foodstuffs to giveaway two million reusable grocery bags has made the transition from single-use plastic carrier bags easy for customers. Photo / Supplied

At Foodstuffs, which is responsible for New World, Pak'nSave, Four Square, Gilmours, Trents, Raeward Fresh, Liquorland and On the Spot, the change has been phased in since January.

In general the vast majority of customers "took to the change like ducks to water", Foodstuffs spokeswoman Sue Hamilton said.

Aiding that was the giveaway by Foodstuffs of two million reusable grocery bags, 450,000 drink bottles, and 1.8m pods to reduce food waste.

The company has also launched BYO containers in the North Island, and completely recyclable meat trays made from 50 per cent recycled plastic, among other initiatives.

It has also banned plastic applicator tampons, plastic cotton buds, microbeads, oxo-degradable wraps and is "working on straws".

Countdown general manager of sustainability, Kiri Hannifin, said all 180 Countdown stores phased out single-use plastic bags in October and customers had responded very well to the change.

"We know Kiwis are keen to do right by the environment, and both our stores and our customers were more than ready for the new regulations," Hannifin said.

"While the vast majority of our customers are now bringing their own bags with them, we've always made sure there is an alternative option if our customers do forget, which is why we've introduced the 20 cent paper bag.

"We've known the ban was coming for a year, which has given us the time to run down our stock of our 15c emergency bags."

Foodstuffs has launched a number of initiatives to combat plastics in stores and in the environment. Photo / Supplied
Foodstuffs has launched a number of initiatives to combat plastics in stores and in the environment. Photo / Supplied

Countdown had also:

• Stopped selling packs of single-use plastic straws, removing an estimated 11 million from circulation;

• Started using New Zealand sourced recycled plastic instead of 177 tonnes of imported virgin plastic for a range of bakery products;

• Removed 117 tonnes of plastic from produce sections;

• And rolled out a trial of BYO containers in Canterbury and Auckland stores.