Countdown axing plastic produce bags labelled 'great'

Laura James
Source: 1News

As Plastic Free July gets underway, one of our biggest supermarkets is taking a big step to cut back.

Countdown's being praised by experts for its move to phase out plastic produce bags.

Associate Professor of Science and Environmental Science at Canterbury University, Sara Tolbert, said it was a "great" move by the franchise and "exactly what corporations should be doing."

Sustainability Consultant, Nick Morrison agreed, saying it'll "nudge" consumers in the right direction.

Countdown's Commercial Director of Fresh Produce, Pieter De Wet, told 1News, the supermarket's customers use 50 million plastic produce bags per year.

"So the impact is enormous, the quicker we can stop the bigger positive impact we can have on the environment," he said.

Their newest Auckland store, in the suburb of Herne Bay, is already free of single-use bags.

"The store opened a week and a half ago... and customers in the main have been very receptive to it."

The bags will be taken out of 19 more stores across the country in the next month.

"We would have done it earlier if we could have," De Wet said.

"Once we feel we've got a handle on it and customers are happy with the process we'll roll it out to more stores."

Morrison's family is keen on sustainability at home.

His partner Odette Lake goes to refill stores for most of their goods including oil, flour, pasta, peanut butter, dishwashing liquid and shampoo.

"And then we go to the butcher with our Tupperware", Lake said, where they can also top up their milk supply.

They're so committed to the cause they have reusable nappies for their two-year-old.

But the Auckland family's encouraging others they can start small.

Morrison said, "Look at what you are using and approach each item one by one, plastic bags the start."

"If you can't do everything just make a few changes," Lake said.

Government regulation

Countdown's shift comes a year ahead of the Government regulating the move away from plastic produce bags.

Single-use items are being phased out in three tranches.

Cotton tips and plastic drink stirrers are among the items that'll no longer be allowed with the first tranche in October.

The second tranche will phase out plastic produce bags, plates, bowls and cutlery by 2023, while the third tranche will target plastic food and beverage packaging giving retailers a 2025 deadline to remove the items from stores.

Associate Professor Tolbert said there needs to be more pressure on corporations and the Government to create change.

While some companies are making positive progress, Tolbert said, "we can't wait for them to do the right thing."

She's urging the public to take part in "political action", to push for more regulation, "to make sure that all corporations are making a base standard of reducing their plastic pollution."

"We need to change the whole system."