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Countdown bans the bag

Countdown WaihekeSupermarket giant Countdown will remove single-use plastic bags from its stores and e-commerce operations by the end of 2018.

The move – which means 350 million shopping bags will be taken out of the system – has been welcomed by industry associations.

In its press announcement today, Countdown’s managing director Dave Chambers said 83 percent of its customers support the plan.

“We are now calling on the new government to step in and regulate to completely stamp out single use plastic bags,” he said.

“Regulatory action gives the best outcome for our oceans and sea life, and will mean a universal approach that is fair for all retailers.”

Retail NZ says it’s great news that Countdown is moving to phase out plastic bags and congratulates all retailers that have taken steps to reduce the number of plastic bags being issued.

“There is increasing customer demand for action by retailers on plastic bags, and we have also seen New World recently launch to ask its customers whether or not it should introduce a charge on bags” said Greg Harford, Retail NZ’s general manager for public affairs.

“A number of other retailers have also taken action, and we think this will increase over time.

“Ultimately, retailers will be led by their customers.  Customers have traditionally expected a bag when they go shopping, but there seems to have been a change in public opinion, and retailers are responding to that.”    

Harford added that many businesses in the retail sector are attempting to reduce their environmental impacts and government leadership through regulation is still required to “ensure that there is a clear, consistent and universal approach” across the sector.

“Industry action should not be seen as an excuse by government to dodge its responsibilities, however,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s important that any solution regarding plastic bags is universal, and applies to all retailers.”   

Countdown’s bag ban was also praised by Greenpeace, who said the move “makes them leader of the pack on plastic reduction”.

“They’ve realised how strongly the New Zealand public sees these bags as pure environmental craziness,” said Greenpeace campaigner Elena Di Palma. “Better than that, they’ve done something about it.”

“We’d like to see Foodstuffs and New World, who are considering a 5 or 10 cent charge on bags, to match Countdown’s boldness and eliminate this marine menace”

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said if other businesses made efforts to reduce plastic bag use and the government introduces a levy on plastic bags, “that around 500 to 600 million plastic bags” a year could be cut out in Auckland alone.

“Charging or banning plastic bags cannot be introduced through a council bylaw and I will continue to work with MPs to promote a change through a local bill in parliament,” he said.

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