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Plastic Bag Levy Gains Political Support

5th November 2008

Plastic Bag Levy Gains Political Support

The National Party would support investigating a levy on supermarket plastic bags if National wins the election this weekend.

Responding to a survey carried out by Kiwi Plastic Bag Concern, Sustainable Wanaka and Wanaka Wastebusters, a National spokesperson said “It's an interesting idea that fits within our broader Blue-Green approach of using prices to encourage more environmentally friendly behaviour….

“We would be happy to investigate and consider the idea if National becomes the Government.”

The Green Party, New Zealand First and United Future all supported introducing a levy on plastic bags in the next year.

The survey was carried out in the last fortnight and asked all political parties if they would support a plastic bag levy (see Table 1 for results).

“Consumers receive an average of six plastic shopping bags free with their shopping each week, which adds up to 22 million plastic bags used in New Zealand each week,” said Angus Ho, convener of Kiwi Plastic Bag Concern.

“Plastic bags are used for only a few minutes but can take up to 500 years to break down in our landfills.”

According to a Kiwi Plastic Bag Concern survey conducted last year, 90 percent of people believed that a supermarket charge for every bag would dramatically cut down the current excessive bag use, and would encourage them to bring their own reusable bags to the supermarket.

Most people (44 percent) agreed that a supermarket charge of only 10 cents per bag would be effective.

Mr Ho said overseas experience had shown a levy on plastic bags was an extremely effective way to encourage people to bring their own reusable bags.

Ireland and Taiwan reduced plastic bag usage by 90 percent and 98 percent respectively by introducing levies.

China banned free plastic bags in 2008 and Hong Kong has banned them from 2009. South Australia will stop using free single-use plastic bags from the end of 2008.

“New Zealand is clearly dragging the chain on this issue,” said Mr Ho.

Mr Ho said the voluntary Packaging Accord 2004 introduced by the last Government had been ineffective, with a target of only a 20 percent reduction in plastic bag use by 2009.

“The next government should either impose a levy or make plastic bags a priority product for product stewardship under the Waste Minimization Act,” said Mr Ho.

“I hope the commitment of these parties to a levy on plastic bags will mean they push hard for a levy to be introduced in New Zealand after the election.”

Table 1: Response of political party
Polictical Party Support Plastic Bag Levy Not Support Plastic Bag Levy No Response
ACT New Zealand 
Green Party 
Jim Anderton's Progressive  *
Labour Party 
Māori Party 
National Party **
New Zealand First Party 
United Future 

* “The Progressive Party does not have a specific policy on an imposition of a levy on plastic shopping bags. In Government, Jim Anderton has supported the passage of the Waste Minimisation Act, we have yet to see the impact of this legislation.”

** “National has no specific policy on a supermarket plastic bag levy. It's an interesting idea that fits within our broader Blue-Green approach of using prices to encourage more environmentally friendly behaviour. Careful thought would need to be given as to who would be included. For example, would it include smaller supermakets/dairies and fast-food outlets? We would be happy to investigate and consider the idea if National becomes the Government.”


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