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Single-use plastic blacklist extended

A raft of plastic products will be banned by July as part of a government initiative.

From July 1, another round of hard-to-recycle plastics will be phased out nationwide as part of an initiative being led by the government.

Plastic straws, single-use plastic tableware and cutlery, single-use plastic produce bags, and non-home compostable plastic produce labels will be unavailable.

The ban comes as New Zealand and the international community grapples with plastic pollution.

New World Masterton owner Clive Webber said one of the only major changes to the operation of supermarkets will be the abolishment of the produce bags.

He said his store and many others will be moving to paper bags.

“The overall perception is that it’s better for the environment,” Webber said.

The bag ban includes single-use plastic produce bags made of recyclable plastic, biodegradable plastic, and plant-based or compostable plastic.

“There are no exemptions to the ban on single-use plastic produce bags,” Ministry for the Environment [MftE] guidance released yesterday stated.

Webber said all other listed prohibited plastics have been slowly switched out by supermarkets already.

He said in an ideal situation, customers will bring their own reusable bags, so fewer forests will be cut down to make paper.

MftE said plastic straws will still be available for those with disabilities and health conditions.

Until January 1, 2026, single-use plastic drinking straws that are attached to a beverage box by a machine [e.g. juice or milk boxes] or are otherwise an integral part of the packaging will be exempt from the regulations, MftE said.

Banned tableware includes single-use plastic bowls, plates, and platters.

Prohibited cutlery includes single-use forks, spoons, teaspoons, knives, and chopsticks.

The ban also includes cutlery that is essential to the packaging of a food product – for example, cutlery sold with single-serve ice cream or salad packs.

The final item on the plastic blacklist is non-compostable plastic produce labels stuck to fruit or vegetables that have been made from any material that does not meet a home compostable standard.

MftE said all businesses will be legally obligated to comply with the regulations.

“The Ministry for the Environment will first work with businesses to ensure they understand their obligations. However, penalties apply for non-compliance.”

MftE said it will take enforcement action where appropriate, particularly where systemic or ongoing non-compliance occurs.

“Parties that contravene the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 may face prosecution and, if convicted, fines of up to $100,000 per offence. All prosecution decisions are made subject to our prosecution’s policy and enforcement decision-making policy.”

South Wairarapa District Council said plastic is one of the greatest environmental challenges, given it regularly ends up in landfills and the sea. “Hard-to-recycle packaging and products can interfere with our recycling systems and are often used only once before being disposed of.”

The council said shifting away from hard-to-recycle and single-use plastics will ultimately help reduce plastic waste.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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