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Small supermarkets in no rush to ditch plastic bags

Newshub logoNewshub 7/06/2018 Zane Small

The Government is set to ban single-use plastic bags in New Zealand, and many supermarket chains are on board with the idea, but not all of them. 

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage told RadioLIVE on Tuesday the ban could be announced in "the next few months."

But smaller supermarkets could struggle to keep up with the ban in the same way large supermarkets can, which have more money to put towards coming up with sustainable alternatives. 

A spokesperson from Tai Ping Super Store on Dominion Road told Newshub the shop has no plans to stop using plastic bags anytime soon. However, if the Government enforced a ban on single-use plastic bags it would make an effort to meet the requirement. 

Auckland grocery store Bulk Food Savings in Mount Eden also isn't ready to meet a single-use plastic bag ban, a spokesperson told Newshub. The store is "working on it" but probably won't be able to phase out single-use plastic bag use by the end of the year.

Another small grocery store, Royal Save Mart, confirmed it has no plans to phase out plastic bags any time soon. A spokesperson said there are other more important environmental issues the Government should be focusing on rather than banning single-use plastic bags. 

a sign above a store © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited

However, a spokesperson from grocery chain Farro Fresh said the company plans to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags from checkouts by July this year. 

Farro - an upmarket 'gourmet' grocery chain - claims it has already reduced bag usage by 20 percent since offering a reusable bag credit (5c if you bring your own bag) two years ago, and will continue to offer this incentive, spokeswoman Petra Mihaljevich told Newshub. 

From July, the company will be introducing compostable bags made from what it claims are 100 percent plant-based materials that will compost in less than 9-12 months. The company offers bags made from cotton, hessian, and paper. 

Customers will not be charged for the compostable bags, however Farro co-founder and owner, Janene Draper, says they may look to charge for compostable bags in the future. 

Eugenie Sage said she is awaiting advice from the Ministry for the Environment on what a good timeframe for the single-use plastic bags ban would be, and has asked the ministry to prioritise this.

Supermarket industry giant Foodstuffs (owner of Pak'n'Save, New World and Four Square) alongside Woolworths-owned Countdown are among New Zealand-based businesses that signed a declaration on Tuesday committing to using 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in their New Zealand operations by 2025 or earlier. 

"What we've seen already with Z Energy, with Countdown, Foodstuffs, is those companies committing to phase out single-use plastic bags in their businesses by the end of the year," said Ms Sage. 

"That's responsible for about 75 percent of the bags that are used across New Zealand each year but for that other 25 percent it needs action from Government," she added.

a person wearing a pink shirt © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited

Countdown's National Communications and Public Affairs Manager Kate Porter said the company will be phasing out single-use plastic bags at checkouts and its online shopping service right around the country by the end of 2018. 

"Ten of our stores have already made the move at their checkouts and online will follow soon," she told Newshub. 

Ms Sage applauded the businesses that have committed to making their packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

But Greenpeace has warned the announcement is an "industry-led false solution for tackling the scourge of plastic pollution in our oceans". 

"We need to be wary of pledges like this that sound good, but in reality allow the rise of plastic packaging production in our lives and our oceans, all while companies pose as green leaders," said Greenpeace campaigner Emily Hunter. 

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