The Government's single-use plastic bag ban is being welcomed in Tauranga by two people who have witnessed up close the scale and consequence of what is being left behind.

The Government late last week announced single-use plastic bags were to be phased out over the next 12 months.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was about looking after the environment and safeguarding New Zealand's clean, green reputation.

"Every year in New Zealand we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags – a mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life, and all of this when there are viable alternatives for consumers and business."


Tauranga's Marty Hoffart, director of recycling and waste minimisation company Waste Watchers, said he supported the ban but also wanted more to be done.

"Unfortunately we are two decades behind the rest of the planet when it comes to producer responsibility for products like beverage containers, electronic waste, end of life tyres and a host of other products. Where are these announcements?"

Hoffart said the Government should adopt a strategy which reduces the production and consumption of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics, "through a series of bans, levy charges and corporate responsibility".

"We need to introduce minimum recycled content in packaging so that we can close the loop and participate in the circular economy that the Government keeps talking about."

Hoffart, also the chairman of Zero Waste Network, which represents community enterprises across New Zealand working towards zero waste, said the majority of rubbish found on our coasts is single-use plastic.

"This is having an impact to our marine life. In New Zealand, we have fallen dangerously behind the times in tackling this crisis."

Someone who has seen that impact up close is Tauranga marine photographer and kayaker Nathan Pettigrew.

He said the plastic bag ban was "awesome".

"I'm stoked; I'm over the moon with that decision, I really am.

"It's a bit of a win-win for the environment. The more plastic that we can stop from getting into the environment, the better."

Pettigrew said he regularly sees plastic bags caught on rocks around estuaries and marinas, as well as on beaches and the odd one out at sea.

"Further out I often see plastic that fishing bait has been in."

He said the single-use plastic bag ban was a good start but more change was still needed.

Pettigrew said he was at a local supermarket recently and saw meat being double-packed in plastic.

"And you just sort of think, is that really necessary? It just seems overkill.

"People will find another way. If you take something away from people, they'll find a way. You just have to adapt and we'll get there."

Someone on the other side of the supermarket counter, Papamoa Beach Four Square owner Ben Duffield, agreed and said a lot of shoppers were already making the change to reusable bags.

"You used to give them out and not a lot would come back, but now a lot of people are bringing their own bags in."

Duffield, who has owned the store for six months, said he has seen a big change in that time.

"It's still obviously a hard habit to get into – bringing your reusable bag in, but a lot of people are doing it now."

He said he has particularly noticed a big change in customers' attitude towards plastic bags in the past three months.

Duffield said the ban is a good thing.

"Foodstuffs was committed to January 1, 2019 – that they were getting rid of them out of every store anyway, but it's good to see that everyone's going to do it from now on."

The Government is seeking views on the plastic bag ban until September 14.

The Prime Minister said the Government had listened to the 65,000 New Zealanders who had this year called for the ban through a signed petition.

On the street: Is the Government's single-use plastic bag ban a good idea?

"I'm happy they're banning them, yeah. I don't think we need any more, there's plenty in the ocean as it is."
Damian Ford, 45, Welcome Bay

"I would say, yes, it is. But I can see it's going to be a huge undertaking by everybody."
Denise McCormack, 64, Pyes Pa

"Yes. The hazard that they are, we're better off without them. We can do without them. We can take our own bags along and it's no problem."
Doreen Turton, 78, Pāpāmoa

"It helps the environment quite a bit, so yeah, I would say it is."
Joe Huey, 14, central Tauranga

"Yeah. We never used to have them; we always used to have paper ... and they were good. They break down, whereas plastic bags lie there. If you bury them, they'll stay there for 100 years."
Coralie McIntosh, 85, Maungatapu