Getting New Zealand ready for supermarkets without single-use plastic bags at the checkout
Foodstuffs thinks we're maybe not fully ready yet, but we're
making great progress.
When New World made the commitment to go single-use plastic bag
free at the checkout by the end of 2018, we knew it was a mammoth
task, but one that needed to be done. Simply banning the bag
is a relatively mechanical process, and not too hard to achieve,
however the real trick is helping our customers make the
adjustment. Then we have to look at choosing the right
alternatives for those of us who, despite our best efforts are
going to be caught short without our reusable bags. We will
need something to put our groceries in.
Foodstuffs believes they're on the right track. New World
has been taking a lead on helping to drive the change with
consumers. Over the last six months they have given away more
than two million long-life reusable bags.
The goal was pretty simple; we wanted to fill up our customers'
car boots with reusable bags so they always had an alternative to a
single-use plastic bag on hand. New World has also been
trialling signage to remind customers to bring their own bags and
we've invested heavily in the nationwide 'Bags Not' campaign to
promote the use of reusable alternatives.
The big question, "Is it working?"
You bet. Aside from the reusable bags we've given away, the
sales of long-life reusable bags have increased by 600%, and our
stores have noticed a big drop in the number of single-use plastic
bags being used. Across the board we are seeing customers
wanting to make further reductions, which is extremely
Foodstuffs is now ready to announce the next wave of initiatives
to help customers get ready for the transition. To avoid
confusion between our stores we will align the removal of
single-use plastic bags at the checkout across all our major
supermarkets. PAK'nSAVE and Four Square will be joining New
World in removing single-use plastic bags from the checkout.
Foodstuffs will also start trialling alternatives for customers
who get caught short. Choosing the right options to
test is trickier than it looks. It's not as simple as immediately
switching to a heavy duty reusable plastic bag like the ones they
use in the UK or Australia, or compostable plastic, or paper.
The science behind the options is fairly complex.
Some of the so-called eco options currently available are
over-hyped and actually have harmful effects. They don't compost
readily in anything other than ideal commercial environments.
If they end up in landfill and break down slowly they release
methane gas. And, if they enter the soft plastics recycling
stream they can destroy the integrity of the recycled
Our choice also depends a lot on how the bags will be used;
once, a few times, or over many months or even years, the numbers
need to stack up.
Over the coming weeks customers will see a heavy duty reusable
plastic bag available for sale in selected stores. These are a good
option for bags which will be used a few times but they won't last
for years. At the end of their life they can safely enter the
soft plastics recycling stream. Foodstuffs supermarkets account for
the top 10 soft plastics recyclers. Our customers really get
it and are keen to make a change.
Foodstuffs is also testing a paper grocery bag as another option
that will be available for sale at the checkout. These have the
advantage of being suitable for kerbside recycling bins.
When it comes down to it though, best of all are long-life cloth
reusable bags - they always have been. If consumers regularly
reuse these bags over many months and years, these are the best
option for the environment.