Worldwide, 170 different states and 30 different countries have a levy or an outright ban on single-use plastic bags. This includes islands famous for their marine life, like Hawaii.
BYO Bag Waiheke envisions the same ruling for the Auckland-based island.
Founder Deb Lytte says the organisation has been trying to educate the public on the damage plastic can do to marine life for the last five years.
She says events in the past have drummed up support for the initiative, like Countdown and other retailers getting on board with Plastic-free Fridays.
To kickstart the initiative, Countdown is offering Onecard holders vouchers for free re-usable bags, or a discounted price of $1 each.
Alternatively, shoppers can bring in their own bags or buy compostable bags for 15 cents.
Countdown Upper North Island operations manager Stuart Worsnop says the company wanted to support Waiheke Island in its journey to becoming plastic-bag free.
“Waiheke is a unique island environment. As such, there are significant challenges with rubbish needing to be transported off the island at some cost. Waiheke is already on a journey to become plastic bag free, with many shops on the island making that change.
“At Countdown we want to support that, and we’re confident that both Waiheke residents and visitors will help support this commitment too.”
Whether similar initiatives will be rolled out countrywide is debatable.
Last year the Government announced it was partnering with retailers and the packaging industry to recycle plastic bags, but it wasn’t going to make them go plastic-bag free.
Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises were some of the retailers involved in the trial of a new recycling service at Pak’n Save, New World and Countdown stores.
Customers could drop plastic bags off to special bins at the stores, with the bags then being recycled and made into park benches and playground items.
Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith said it was a more sensible approach than a ban or a compulsory levy on plastic bags.
“These bags make up only 0.2 percent of waste going to landfill, and only 10 percent of plastic waste,” he said.
“Nor can a ban or a compulsory levy be justified when plastic shopping bags only make up 1.5 per cent of the litter items in nationwide litter surveys.”
However, the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) disagreed and said more action needed to be taken than just recycling.
“Whilst recycling is important, the country must also focus on reduction in bag usage. Local government’s view is imposing a compulsory levy at the point of sale will act as a deterrent, reducing the total number of single use plastic bags produced,” it said.
A petition to phase out single-use plastic bags in New Zealand on Change.org gathered 17,000 signatures, but fell short of its goal of 25,000.