Plastic Bag Ban 2019

Information for your business

Are you aware that after 1 July 2019 it will be illegal to hand out most plastic bags with handles to your customers, whether they are sold or given for free, including old stock?

The Government’s regulations were announced in December 2018, giving businesses six months to transition away from plastic bags. From 1 July, businesses cannot sell or provide single-use plastic shopping bags to customers for carrying their goods.

This page provides information to prepare you for this change ahead on 1 July, including what bags are included, what to do with leftover plastic bags and alternatives to plastic bags. 

Which bags are included in the ban?

The ban applies to all new plastic shopping bags with handles that are made of plastic up to 70 microns in thickness. 

This includes the lightweight plastic bags commonly found at supermarket, takeaway food and other retail checkouts, as well as heavier shopping bags and the ‘emergency’ bags currently offered as an alternative to a free single-use bag. 

The ban also include bags with handles that are made of degradable plastic (i.e. biodegradable, compostable and oxy-degradable), regardless of whether the plastic material is sourced from from biological sources such as plants or from fossil-fuels or synthetic compounds.

In summary, the Waste Minimisation (Plastic Shopping Bags) Regulations apply to plastic shopping bags that meet all of the following criteria:

  • Made of any type of plastic less than 70 microns in thickness. This includes plastics made from bio-based materials such as starch and plastics designed to be degradable, biodegradable, compostable or oxo-degradable.
  • Have carry handles, including die-cut handles.

These types of bags are not included in the mandatory phase-out:

  • Bags without handles, including lightweight barrier bags (e.g. bags without handles used for containing meat or produce).
  • Bin liners and rubbish bags.
  • Bags for pet waste or nappies.
  • Bags that form an integral part of a product’s packaging (e.g. bread bags and pouches for cooked chicken).
  • Bags that do not contain plastic or bio-sourced plastics (e.g. paper, cotton, jute, hemp and flax).
  • Long-life multi-use bags made from synthetic fabric (e.g. nylon and polyester) between 45 and 70 microns in thickness.

For further information, go the Ministry for the Environment website or view the resources below.


 Does the ban apply to all businesses?

Yes, the regulations apply to all retailers in New Zealand, regardless of type and size. Under the regulations a retailer is a person engaged in business in New Zealand that includes the sale of goods. This includes any kind of shop (e.g. dairies, cafes, takeaway foods, petrol stations, clothing shops, hardware shops, garden centres) and all retail situations, from farmers markets and not-for-profit organisations such as op-shops, through to large department stores and malls.

The ban also applies to online businesses that sell goods in New Zealand. 

What should my business use instead of plastic bags?

There are a wide range of plastic bag alternatives available from your packaging company or from local retailers

The Ministry for the Environment has provided information on alternatives to plastic bags, and alternatives for different types of businesses, including a PDF which you can find below.

You can also encourage your customers to bring their own bag, or reuse packaging material you’re already receiving that customers can use for transporting goods, such as boxes or wrapping. 


How should we communicate changes to our customers

Make sure you communicate your changes to your customers with plenty of notice, particularly if you’d like them to bring their own bag. You could even offer an incentive to customers who bring their own bag, such as a small discount on their bill or the chance to go in the draw for a prize. 

Sharing your packaging change can be a good opportunity to engage your customers on your own waste and sustainability efforts, particularly given widespread concern regarding single-use plastics.

What should I do with any plastic bags I have left after 1 July? 

From 1 July, any remaining plastic bags included in the ban will not be able to be provided or sold to your customers for carrying or distributing their goods. 

We recommend reusing your remaining bag stock for internal use, such as for storage or as bin liners. You can also offer remaining bags to community groups that undertake beach clean-ups or weed removal. Contact NPDC on if you have bags you would like to donate for reuse by these groups. 

We strongly recommend against sending surplus bags to the landfill.

For further advice on non-plastic bag alternatives and reducing waste in your business, get in touch with NPDC’s Commercial Waste Minimisation Officer on 

You can also complete our business waste survey to let us know what support you’d like to receive to reduce waste.