Countdown Orewa and Silverdale have this week become the first local supermarkets to no longer provide customers with free, single use plastic carrier bags.
The move came as Government announced, last Friday, that it is consulting on a mandatory six month phase out of single use plastic bags.
Labour list MP Marja Lubeck, of Rodney, says it’s great to see local businesses showing leadership by phasing out the bags.
The ban at Orewa and Silverdale Countdown began on Monday, August 13 and includes the introduction of paper bags for groceries ordered online.
However, it comes with a catch – a whole new bunch of plastic bags.
The heavier weight plastic bags introduced to Countdown supermarkets last week, ahead of the ban, are similar to the ones often provided in clothing and other retail stores and are designed for repeated use. They contain 80 percent recycled plastic and can be recycled through the soft plastic bins in supermarkets.
However, they have fallen foul of environmental campaigners, including Greenpeace, which is concerned that replacing light plastic bags with a heavier plastic equivalent may result in worse outcomes for the environment.
Greenpeace’s oceans campaigner, Emily Hunter says the new thicker plastic bags are said to be designed for 20 uses, but their cheap price of 15 cents each means they are likely to be used only once – flooding the environment with more, heavier and longer lasting plastics.
“They simply perpetuate the throw away culture which lies at the root of the problem,” she says.
She also notes that the compostable bags that The Warehouse is introducing as a replacement for its plastic bags do not decompose properly in the sea.
“We commend retailers like Bunnings, Mitre 10 and Z Energy who are eliminating single-use plastic bags entirely, and the big supermarkets taking steps to tackle the problem with the promotion of reusable bags – but offering heavier plastic bags or compostable bags is concerning.”
A Countdown spokesperson says the new plastic bag is designed to be a last resort for customers and could be a temporary measure as people adapt to the changes.
“Our first preference is for customers to bring their own bags and the next best option is the $1 cloth Bag for Good, which we replace free when it wears out,” the spokesperson says. “The 15 cent emergency bag is for customers who forget to bring their own bags. Any profits from the sale of this bag will be donated to charity. Over the next year we’ll look at how many people use the 15 cent bag and why, and review whether it’s still needed once people get used to bringing their reusable bags.”
To make a submission on Government’s proposal, visit www.mfe.govt.nz/consultation/plasticshoppingbags
Submissions close September 14.
Bye bye bags
Last October, Countdown announced a move away from single-use plastic carrier bags, and it was closely followed by New World. • The Silverdale and Orewa Countdowns follow 10 others around the country that banned the bags back in May. The remaining stores, including the Whangaparaoa one, will make the change by the end of this year. • Foodstuffs, which owns New World, Pak ‘n’ Save, Four Square and Liquorland stores, will ban single use plastic checkout bags from January 1, 2019. The transition will take a bit longer at Liquorland, which is expected to pull plastic bags by the end of February next year. Foodstsuffs is also trialling a heavier weight plastic bag.