Countdown clears up confusion over plastic bags in phase-out stores

Countdown clears up confusion over plastic bags in phase-out stores

Countdown is phasing out plastic bags at its stores, with ten stores are already on board and the rest to join by the year's end, but it's less straightforward than it seems.

Ecoware Food Packaging, a sustainable food packaging company, raised concern about the plastic bag policy after its director James Calver shopped at one of the 'phase out' stores.

Mr Calver had forgotten to take reusable bags into the busy store, and it wasn't until he was walking out with his shopping that it occurred to him he'd bought thick plastic bags for $1.

He took to Facebook to share his confusion, saying he'd expected from media coverage about the policy there would be no plastic bags whatsoever at the store. While there were no single-use plastic bags, there was still plenty of plastic.

"I know they are being marketed as reusable, but let's be real about it, they are not reusable plastic bags as such. They are just thicker plastic disposable bags, that use more plastic," he said in the post.

Countdown clears up confusion over plastic bags in phase-out stores
Photo credit: Facebook

Mr Calver told Newshub the post "went bonkers" and he "was not the only one who's left the store and the light bulb's gone off".

The plastic bags that he was given were Countdown's 55 micron plastic bags, which cost 15c and are designed to be used up to 20 times. The supermarket also sells branded reusable bags for $1.

Countdown general manager corporate affairs Kiri Hannifin said the supermarket's first preference is for customers to bring their own bags to its stores, but the next best option is to purchase the reusable bag - which are replaced for free when customers wear them out.

"As a last resort, when customers get caught out with a load of groceries and have forgotten to bring their bags, the 15c emergency bag is 55 micron plastic, affordable, and designed to be used up to 20 times," Ms Hannifin says.

She says in mid-2019 the policy will be reviewed to see whether it's still necessary to offer the 15c bag.

"Change isn't always easy, and this is a transition time for both customers and us," she said.

All profits from the 15c bag are given to charity, and from August this year the bags will be made from 80 percent recycled plastic.

Mr Calver said while he was initially confused by the policy, he wanted to acknowledge Countdown for taking environmental action.

"I commend them because they have made a behaviour change, and embraced the sustainability journey," he said.

"The industry is in a transition phase, and nothing's going to be perfect."

Countdown currently uses 350 million single-use plastic bags each year.

New World, Pak'n'Save and Four Square will also phase out single-use plastic bags by the end of the year.