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Going beyond plastic

Countdown will phase out plastic bags from all of its stores by the end of next year. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

JAKE BELESKI

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Three supermarkets across Wairarapa are set to be completely plastic bag-free in the not-too-distant future, as supermarkets scramble to show how they are fighting the war on plastic.

Countdown introduced New Zealand’s first plastic bag-free supermarket, and on Wednesday announced single-use plastic bags will be phased out from all of their stores by the end of 2018.

The company’s managing director, Dave Chambers, said the decision would result in the removal of 350 million plastic bags from New Zealand’s waste stream and environment.

Progressive Enterprises’ franchise supermarket brands, SuperValue and FreshChoice, have also committed to phasing out single-use plastic carrier bags as soon as they can.

The announcement comes hot on the heels of other supermarkets revealing how they will be reducing their use of plastic bags.

Pak ‘n Save in Masterton has said they will be trialling compostable bags from November to February or March, and New World supermarkets are currently asking for feedback to determine whether they should charge their customers for each plastic bag.

Chris Ward, owner of SuperValue in Featherston and FreshChoice in Greytown, said they had been using biodegradable compostable rubbish bags for “probably at least three years”.

“You won’t find many polystyrene trays, if any, in FreshChoice today,” he said.

“All of the trays in the butchery and produce areas are recyclable.”

He said the expectation and anticipation of the industry was to lead what the recycling world could deliver.

They had also invested $25,000 in a cardboard baler, which would get through a “couple of tonnes” of cardboard each week.

The idea of ditching plastic bags had been looked at before, but had been met with resistance because people liked to use plastic bags in their rubbish bins, he said.

Having biodegradable bags with a certain lifespan was seen as a way to alleviate those concerns.

Mr Chambers said it was the right time for Countdown to take the lead and phase out single-use plastic carrier bags for good.

“We have been tracking customer sentiment for two years and our most recent research, concluded in August, indicates that 83 per cent of our customers support phasing out single-use plastic carrier bags.

“In May 2016, Countdown introduced New Zealand’s first plastic bag-free supermarket on Waiheke Island, where customers are bringing their own bags and we have compostable bags on sale for 15 cents.”

Customers had adapted quickly to plastic bag-free checkouts, and the feedback had been positive, he said.

The phase-out will also apply to Countdown’s national online shopping service.

As a first step, the price of Countdown’s reusable bags will be permanently reduced to $1 each (from the current price of $1.39) next Monday.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson commended Countdown for their decision, and also praised New World for their bag vote.

“I think it reflects the growing concern about the amount of plastic,” she said.

“We also have plastic rubbish bags at the council, and we’re looking for a more biodegradable type of bag as well.”

The Masterton District Council (MDC) is working on a project — in conjunction Countdown, Pak ‘n Save, New World and Trust House — which would see jute bags given to people in Masterton free of charge.

It was initially hoped the initiative would be rolled out in December, but they were now targeting early January, Mrs Patterson said.

“This is about recognising we all are part of the problem, and we all need to be part of the solution.

“Everybody realises it’s time we did something to make a difference.”

MDC councillor Chris Peterson said there would be a screening of ‘A Plastic Ocean’ — a documentary looking at the damage plastic causes to the ocean — at the Regent 3 cinemas in Masterton on October 22.

The screening will coincide with New Zealand’s conservation week.

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