NZ Plastic Bag Survey

Press Release 23/2/07

Supermarket Plastic Bag Survey: 56% bags not necessary

Every year, New Zealanders use 114million of petroleum based plastic bags, which equates to each person using 1 bag a day.  The results of a new survey on New Zealanders use of the plastic shopping bag have been released. Over the past few weeks members of the environmental group ‘Kiwi Plastic Bag Concern' have surveyed a sample of 400 people as they were leaving supermarkets across the country.

The aim of the survey is to investigate and highlight how often plastic bags are given out unnecessarily, and raise awareness of this huge waste problem. The statistics given below will provide food for thought for many shoppers who pick up disposable bags without considering the alternatives. These show that the majority of shoppers believe supermarkets should be doing more to cut down on plastic bag use, and are of the opinion that a legislated per-bag charge would be an effective way of cutting down plastic bag use.

A summary of key results from the survey:

When asked how many of the plastic bags they were carrying were necessary, over half (56%) the survey respondents' plastic bags handed out from supermarket were unnecessary.

  • At Pak-n-Save supermarkets (in the North Island), which charge for bags, only One Third of the number of bags were used per the dollar amount spent, as compared to other supermarkets who gave plastic bags for free.
  • 83% of participants generally drive their car to the supermarket - 77% of these people believed that could load the groceries to their car without using any plastic shopping bags - by simply keeping reusable bags/boxes/trolley in their car.
  • 80% of people believe supermarket chains should be doing more to cut down on the number of plastic bags they give out.
  • 90% of survey participants believed that a supermarket charge for every bag would dramatically cut down the current excessive bag use, and that a charge as low as 5 cents per bag would change their shopping behavior and cause them to bring their own reusable bags to the supermarket. Most people (44%) agree that supermarket charge of only 10 cents per bag would be effective.
  • 81% of survey participants believed that a legislated per bag levy, similar to the one in Ireland, would reduce the excess waste caused by the plastic bag.

Plastic bag Campaigner disappointed on Kiwi's environmental awareness

Angus Ho, the convener of the ‘Kiwi Plastic Bag Concern' group is currently touring New Zealand after a successful plastic bag reduction campaign in Hong Kong. Given the clean and green image which New Zealand markets to the world Angus was surprised by the recent survey results: 

 "I was shocked to see New Zealanders' excessive use of plastic bags and their unawareness of plastic bag pollution.  New Zealanders are still addicted and love to use plastic bags."  The ‘Kiwi Plastic Bag Concern' group is made up of an assortment of groups across New Zealand who campaign for a reduction in the amount of plastic shopping bag waste. These groups include the Golden Bay Bag Ladies and the bagsNOT team from Wellington.
The group also point out New Zealand lags behind internationally on plastic bag reduction policy.  Ireland and Tai Wan have implemented a plastic bag levy and have successfully reduced their plastic bag numbers by 90% and 75% respectively.  Denmark, Germany, France, Netherlands and others also have legislation on plastic bag levies.  South Africa, Indonesia and Bangladesh have banned certain kinds of plastic bag to reduce excess use.

Kiwi Wake up , "Say No to Plastic Bags"
The group has the following recommendations for cutting down on excessive plastic bag waste:

1. At an individual level shoppers should change their habits and bring their own reusable bags to the supermarket - keeping reusable bags in the car boot or by the front door helps.

2. Supermarket chains should accept their corporate responsibility and immediately reduce their excessive use of bags. This can be achieved in the following ways:
 - Training checkout operators to encourage every customer to bring their own bags (BYOB) or use cardboard boxes
 - Initiating an extensive education and publicity program to remind people BYOB and implementing promotional incentives to reward shoppers who don't use plastic bags.
 - Providing alternatives like boxes at the checkouts or on the way into the supermarket. .
 - Implementing plastic bag charges similar to Pak ‘n' Save

3. At a government level: Government should implement a plastic bag levy, similar to Ireland's, at no less than 20 cents a bag and also consider making waste producing companies financially responsible for the landfill waste and environmental costs they cause.

In the following weeks, the group will write letters to supermarkets, urging them to stop plastic bag pollution, and also campaign online to push the supermarkets into being more proactive about their producer responsibility and raise public awareness.

For any enquiry this press release, please do not hesitate to contact Angus by email at or call at 021 02798045, or Golden Bay Bag Ladies Victoria Davis by email at or call 03 525 9297.

Kiwi Plastic bag concern is a alliance formed by different concern organizations including Golden Bay Bag Ladies-the first plastic bag free community in NZ, the bagsNOT (, and Angus Ho, Convener of "No Plastic Bag Day" in Hong Kong who successfully lined up 39 chains, 2400 shops stop hand out plastic bags in 2006.