In November, the Woolies-owned supermarket will announce its twenty corporate responsibility and sustainability commitments for 2020.
One of which is their plastic bag target to adhere to their waste minimisation program. It will also include the Countdown Food Rescue programme and the target towards zero food waste.
“Now is the right time to take the lead, phase-out single-use plastic carrier bags and introduce better options for customers. This move will result in the removal of 350 million plastic bags from our waste stream and environment,” said Countdown’s managing director Dave Chambers.
“We have been tracking customer sentiment for two years and our most recent research, concluded in August, indicates that 83% 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 adapted quickly to plastic bag free check-outs, and we have had very positive feedback. We’re confident Kiwis will get in behind this change across the country, and we’re committed to making the move away from check-out bags as simple for customers as we can.”
Beginning today, the price of Countdown’s reusable bags will be reduced to $1 each (from the current price of $1.39). The supermarket said they will be having more affordable and sustainable initiatives over the next few months.
Furthermore, the Progressive Enterprises’ franchise supermarket brands, SuperValue and FreshChoice have also committed to phasing-out single-use plastic carrier bags as soon as they can. Both brands are finalising their transition deadline. Currently, compostable and paper bags are already on trial in a number of SuperValue and FreshChoice stores.
Countdown online shoppers living in areas where the Soft Plastics Recycling scheme is in place (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and South Island) will be able to return their plastics to their delivery driver for recycling, instead of taking them into store. As part of planning, Countdown considered whether to introduce a charge on plastic bags.
“We decided that charging for single-use plastic carrier bags was not the right option for Countdown and its customers. Charging is also not the ideal outcome for the environment, because these bags are still provided,” Chambers announced.
Countdown currently invests $8 million annually in-cash and in-kind to community and environmental initiatives. It has New Zealand’s leading Food Rescue programme, diverting almost $6m annually worth of food to food banks and food charities, and every year Countdown gives out more than 2.6 million of free pieces of fruit to kids. Today, Countdown has written to all of the 70 plus plastic bag-free community groups around New Zealand asking to work with them to support customers with this change.