Jun 10, 2020

Phasing Out Plastic: What Producers Can Learn From New Zealand's Banning Of Single-Use Bags

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  • Phasing Out Plastic: What Producers Can Learn From New Zealand's Banning Of Single-Use Bags

There’s no denying it. Plastic packaging has fallen out of favour in recent years. As a result we’ve seen countless industries across the globe facing pressure from governments and consumers alike to transition to eco-friendly alternatives. But...going green doesn’t exactly happen overnight. We’re a stubborn lot, us humans. We’re allergic to change. If it’s familiar? Then it stays. We’ll curse and cry and kick up a fuss if things change too quickly. Take single-use plastic bags as an example. Remember those things? When the New Zealand government first announced its plans for a waste-free future, it was clear. Like it or lump it, plastic bags had to go. At the time they seemed like an integral part of our daily lives. Fast forward a few years and - despite the odd hiccup - we seem to have adapted pretty well to the change. Many of those within the fresh produce industry see a similar task set out before them at the moment in phasing out plastic packaging. I think there’s a lot to learn from the government’s approach here for those looking to follow in their footsteps. So how did they do it? How did they manage to phase out plastics and transition to a sustainable alternative, all without causing (too much of) a stir? Let’s find out.


Pressure’s mounting, but there’s no need to rush your roll-out. The New Zealand government first floated the proposal for phasing out single-use plastic bags back in August 2018. Kiwis had until July 2019 to get used to the idea, and prepare for the change. That’s a lead time of 11 months. Sure, there may have been a few teething problems when the ban officially kicked in - hands up if you also kept forgetting your reusable bags? - but as time has passed, we’ve all changed our habits. It’s amazing to see how quickly we’re able to adjust when the time comes. That’s a safe bet to take with your customers, too. While your roll-out of sustainably packaged produce won’t take quite so long, ramping up into the transition itself is a benefit for both your business and your customers. It gives you the time and opportunity to inform, promote, and get people excited.


Let’s divert for a moment and take a quick look at how the government handled the court of public opinion. Public input was key to the success of the phase-out of plastic bags. From public consultation, the New Zealand government learned that 92% of people who had their say supported the nationwide phase-out. Those are pretty good odds to be working with, and further studies of consumer habits support these findings across commercial industries. Including produce. More and more, consumers are looking for sustainable, environmentally friendly alternatives and they’re willing to pay a premium to get them. If you’re still uncertain, put the feelers out about your potential plans to go green. A short questionnaire or request for feedback from consumers will give you some idea of how your customers feel about the switch. I’d be willing to bet those numbers may just surprise you.


The transition to a sustainable packaging solution doesn’t happen overnight, so you’ve got wiggle room to work with. So, make it work! Keeping your customers informed ensures the change remains fresh (if you’ll pardon the pun…) in their minds. Through regular social media, website, and email updates you’ll be able to take your customers on the journey with you and share the exciting milestones along the way. When we take a look at the government’s approach to the phasing out of single-use plastic bags, we can see just how important this part of the process is. Continuous reminders were strategically placed in stories, and as the due date drew near, information ramped up across TV, radio, and the web. The key lesson here? When your customers know what to expect, they’re more likely to accept it.


It’s all very well and good to say you’re switching to a sustainable alternative, but if it affects the integrity of your product then there’s really no point. When the government made the switch, us as consumers had a range of alternatives in front of us. Quality alternatives. Heck, even big names in fashion got on board and created reusable shopping bags. Who would have thought we'd be packing our groceries in Trelise Cooper? The alternative is everything. Your new packaging must live up to its environmentally-friendly claims while still providing the protection and eye-catching appeal of your current range of traditional, plastic solutions. This is one of the major reasons we’re so excited to be able to offer New Zealand’s fresh produce industry an extensive range of sustainable, environmentally friendly options including:

  • Enviro Pac – A sustainable packaging solution with high tensile strength. Enviro Pac can be thrown straight into the compost after use and will break down within 90 days. The strength and durability of this packaging protects produce and enhances freshness.
  • Packnatur – 100% compostable netting bags for fresh fruit and vegetables made from beechwood cellulose. Keeps produce fresh for two to three days longer than plastic. A perfect alternative for bagged produce.
  • Envirosense – Compostable fruit and vegetable labels made to biodegrade alongside food waste. The perfect environmentally-friendly solution to product identification.


Here at Jenkins we are actively committed to sustainability. In fact, it falls right into our wheelhouse. It’s exciting, innovative, and on the cutting edge of today’s advances in packaging. How could we not be?! It’s clear that phasing out single-use plastic bags was a big win in New Zealand’s shift towards a sustainable future, but we still have a long way to go. If your brand is considering making the switch we’re excited to be able to provide a complete solution that ensures a seamless transition. Let’s talk!

This post was written by

Ann Cameron

Ann is the Sales Manager for consumables. She gets a kick out of helping her customers implement the right packaging options for their products because it can make a real difference to their business.