Plastic-free Kiwi's tips to quit plastic bags for good

Last updated 10:57 07/10/2017

There are simple ways to minimise your use of plastic bags.

Reduce your plastic bag usage by equipping yourself with canvas bag alternatives.
It's easy to slip back into old habits if you don't have a reusable bag on hand.
Swap out the plastic produce bags with reusable cotton bags.

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It's a sad fact that plastic bags are entrenched in our lives due to our desire for convenience and our habits. 

Most of us rely on them for food shopping, lining our rubbish bins and picking up our dog's number twos, but it doesn't have to be that way.

This week Countdown announced it would phase out single-use plastic bags by the end of next year. It's a move supported by Stuff readers, with more than 70 per cent of responders in an online quiz signalling they want plastic bags banned in supermarkets.  

Te Anau local Chloe Corne quit plastic more than a year ago and has lived almost entirely plastic-free since. Corne says once equipped with alternatives, making the change is easy.

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The hardest part is simply learning to "see plastic bags," she says.

"It sounds incredibly simple, but they're everywhere and we're massively desensitised to them. It's easy to grab a plastic bag or be handed one in a store without realising."

The first step to going cold turkey on your plastic bag habit is becoming aware of them. Get used to saying "no thanks" to plastic bags at the supermarket, in clothing stores and at your local takeaway shop. 

Next, get organised with alternatives. Even with the best of intentions if you aren't prepared with reusable bags on hand it can be very easy to slip back into old habits. Most importantly "remain committed to the cause long term".

Here are some simple hacks for a plastic bag-free life.


Get your hands on some reusable shopping bags. Invest in stylish canvas bags, or make your own. If you've got an old T-shirt it's easy to whip up a no-sew T-shirt tote bag in less than 10 minutes. 

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Store reusable bags in your car boot so they're always on hand for the weekly food shop or a spontaneous trip to the mall.


Corne sees many people reason they can't give up plastic bags because they need them to line their rubbish bins, but she says there are plenty of ways to get around this. 

If you compost food waste then it should be fine to put rubbish directly into the bin without a plastic liner "because nothing wet or smelly is going in". 

If you're not composting then biodegradable bin liners are a good options. There's a number of these on the market, but not all of them are totally biodegradable. Look for the natural cornstarch bin liners, they are best.

Or, like Corne, you could line your bin with newspaper. "I started lining my bin with newspaper a year ago and it works well."


If you're giving up plastic bags then go all the way and stop reaching for fresh produce bags at the supermarket.

Either keep fruit and vegetables loose or grab some reusable fresh produce bags like these cotton bags from Rethink. 


"We're all about keeping our waste out of sight, out of mind and this includes our dog's number twos." 

A small spade and a bucket works just fine when picking up your dog's business from around the garden. 

When out for a walk and you really need something that won't leak, re-purpose other types of plastic – like an old bread bag.

- Stuff


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