A Whanganui eatery and bar is no longer handing out takeaway coffee cups and plastic straws and manager Charlie Meyerhoff is looking to make it more sustainable.

She moved here from Wanaka in November, and said Whanganui was lagging in the sustainability stakes. Stellar Restaurant and Bar now keeps paper straws under the counter, in case people ask for them.

"We don't need to provide something where people can easily drink through their mouth."

Also, if people want to take coffee away, they have to bring their own cup. In Wanaka you get a sizeable discount by doing that, she said.


She's also looking to get different takeaway containers, probably made of cardboard and without plastic liners, and said plastic bags and straws should have been phased out long ago.

"We are so beyond that now."

Little changes, like refusing to supply takeaway coffee cups, made people think about reducing the other plastic in their lives, she said.

It's Plastic Free July, and Plastic Free Whanganui member Robin Williamson said it's a good time to think about that.

Times are already changing. When her group monitored three major Whanganui supermarkets for an hour this year the observers saw only four single-use plastic bags carried out the door.

Back in 2016 they counted 1377 leave the same stores, during just one hour in November.

Public perceptions about plastic have changed, and are reflected in the Government's July 1 law change.

It bans retailers from giving customers plastic bags with handles if they are made from plastic less than 70 microns thick - even if the bag is biodegradable. The Environment Ministry suggests people refuse an illegal bag if it is offered.


People can also report the retailer, who can be fined up to $100,000. Bags that have already been used and bags without handles are both allowed.

To extend people's thinking beyond plastic, Plastic Free Whanganui will be holding a stall at the Whanganui River Markets every Saturday in July. It has moved its focus from plastic bags to other single-use plastic items - coffee cups, bin liners, drinking straws and water bottles.

The group has a handout suggesting ways people can avoid using them.

It's compiling a list of Whanganui retailers making changes away from plastic - places like Stellar and Dolphin Takeaways, and Bunnings and Kilt that give customers paper bags rather than plastic bags. It plans to award the "heroes" with stickers or a certificate.

It can't offer activities to the public this July, but will publicise any activities others are offering on its Facebook page.