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Reuseable bags get thumbs-up

Reusable jute shopping bags exchanged for plastic bags at Masterton supermarkets are already being reused by customers. PHOTO/FILE

PAM GRAHAM
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Masterton shoppers are making the move to reuseable bags with good humour, according to retailers.

That’s in contrast to Australia where retailers and unions were working to combat “bag rage” as shoppers vented their anger at moves in many states from July 1 to fine retailers if they supplied single-use plastic bags.

There were no such scenes when Mitre 10 Mega Masterton did away with single-use plastic bags at its checkouts on July 1, or when Countdown, New World and Pak ’n Save swapped plastic bags for jute on Friday.

Over the weekend, many of the remaining jute bags were given away.

The move at Mitre 10 Mega Masterton was part of a nationwide initiative by that retailer and the supermarkets were taking part in an initiative by Masterton District Council and Trust House.

Brent Stewart, the chief executive of Mitre 10 Mega Masterton, said customers could buy a good quality reuseable bag for $1 at the chain and there had been no backlash at the abandonment of single-use plastic bags.

“We had been advertising for three months that this day was coming,” he said.

Customers came in with their own bags and there had been “huge uptake” of the reuseable ones.

“It was very well-accepted by our customers,” he said.

Owner of Masterton New World Clive Webber said the bag exchange on Friday was a “massive day” and customers were already coming back into the store with the reuseable bags.

“You could see it, people are happy about it. And the council got the kids involved which was an absolute win for me,” he said.

Webber said the head office of his supermarket group was working flat-out to get rid of single-use bags entirely but it would take a few months.

“The bigger challenge for all of us is just to move away from plastic,” he said.

“The plastic bags are a piece of it, a very small piece,” he said.

Adam Hall, the manager at Countdown Masterton said the exchange scheme went well.

“It created good talk and there was a good community feel about it,” he said.

Mayor Lyn Patterson said the jute bags were really well-received and the piles of plastic bags received in a six-hour period were quite a sight, providing an insight into just how many plastic bags were in Masterton and the rest of New Zealand.

She said the council was working on the issue of plastic bags used for rubbish collection.

“It’s still a way off but it is something we know we have to move away from as well. We are looking quite seriously at that,” she said.

Easy transition in Martinborough

Martinborough is probably 90 per cent of the way towards the goal of completely getting rid of single-use plastic bags and the Plastic Free July initiatives are helping.

“It looks like most of the town has given up their single-use plastic bags,” said Amanda Ritchie from Boomerang Bags.

Conor Kershaw of Pain & Kershaw Four Square and Mitre 10 Martinborough said the move to ditch plastic bags from July 1 had gone well.

“Overall customer feedback has been good, and along the lines of we knew it was going to happen at some stage”.

His business had got rid of plastic bags at counters but was still working on solutions in some minor areas such as bags for carrying vegetables.

Ritchie said it was a very easy transition on July 1 because her group had already been working for 18 months on grassroots initiatives to provide fabric bags sewn locally and imported from India.

It was really good that the Mitre 10 move and the Plastic Free July movement had coincided with work her group had done.

“The community knew about it and they had their bag and it has seemingly been a seamless process.”

Ritchie said there was still a lot of work to do, including in the area of informing tourists.

Some Martinborough cafes had also committed to trying to minimise use of plastic-lined takeaway coffee cups by charging for them and providing alternatives customers could buy.

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