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Retailers will still be allowed to sell heavier grade, more environmentally-harmful plastic shopping bags despite the Government’s plastic bag ban because of a loophole in the regulations, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.

“It’s another example of the Government not delivering on its promises. They like making grand gestures but are hopeless when it comes to the detail.

“Documents from the Ministry for the Environment, supplied to me under the Official Information Act, show the Government was warned back in March that its ban doesn’t cover so-called ‘emergency style’ plastic bags made from 55 micron LDPE plastic.

“An example of these are the green and white bags that were being sold for 15c at Countdown supermarkets. They are actually more harmful to the environment than the single-use bags that have been outlawed.

“These bags are exempt because they can be reused 20 times, but officials told Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage back in March that they shouldn’t be. They said plastic bags should be able to be reused at least 55 times to pass the multi-use test.

“Officials warned Ms Sage that most people would not hold on to these bags for reuse, and many would end up in landfill. But rather than get tough with retailers she chose to just cross her fingers and hope they don’t start using these heavier plastic bags.

“Countdown won’t sell their emergency bags from July 1, but Foodstuffs are apparently working on a heavier grade version of their own. If more retailers follow their lead it will see even more plastic enter our landfills and marine environment.

“We need to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives, but Ms Sage clearly doesn’t have the mettle to make this happen.”

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