Plastic bags are now a thing of the past.

The phase out of plastic bags was announced by the government on August 10, 2018, in response to a public desire for the government to look after the environment and safeguard New Zealand’s ‘clean green’ reputation.

As of Monday, it’s now illegal for retailers to give out single use plastic bags. That includes supermarket carry bags, plastic takeaway bags and retail bags.

The new ban applies to all plastic shopping bags under 70 microns.

Retailers and other businesses have had six months to prepare for the ban, and while retailers caught giving out plastic bags could face a fine of up to $100,000, the ministry for the environment says that, in practice, the policy will be to educate shop owners before they start penalising anyone.

For the time being, supermarket vegetable bags and bin liners will still be allowed.

The ministry says that by November last year, just months after the ban was announced, more than 50 per cent of New Zealander’s were already using their own reusable shopping bags.

Retailers and supermarkets quickly followed the lead, with Fresh Choice Richmond taking on the change as soon as they could.

Gary Watson, owner of Fresh Choice Richmond, said that the change from plastic bags to a mixture of reusable bags and paper bags has been fantastic.

“People really got on board with it straight away,” Gary says.

The local supermarket ditched plastic bags last year, seizing the opportunity after they used up the plastic bags they already had.

“We used up what we had, and just decided that we would make the change then and there, rather than ordering more and waiting for the new law to come through.”

“There have been little to no complaints. It’s just normal now.”

Gary said that seeing the customer’s make the effort really made them certain that they were doing the right thing for their shoppers, and the environment.

“The support has really been overwhelming.”

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