Wellington, New Zealand – New Zealand's two major supermarket chains will phase out free, single-use high density polyethylene shopping bags.
After the Countdown chain in October announced it will remove single-use plastic carrier bags from stores and its online shopping service by the end of 2018, its rival chain, New World, owned by Wellington-based Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd., surveyed customers to see if they are prepared to pay for carrier bags.
Countdown is a subsidiary of Australian publicly listed company Woolworths Ltd., based in the Sydney suburb of Bella Vista, which in July announced it will phase out single-use bags across its 992 Australian supermarkets by June 30.
Phasing out bags was not an option in New World's survey, but Foodstuffs Managing Director Steve Anderson said although the “overwhelming majority” of survey respondents voted in favor of ‘yes - charge me for bags', “we missed an important question – no bag at all. Many customers told us via email, Facebook, phone and in-store they wanted this option.”
So, despite not formally polling customers on eliminating plastic bags altogether, New World on Oct. 10 announced it will phase them out. Anderson said New World aims to be single-use plastic bag free by the end of 2018. “This move depends on being able to find the right bag solution to meet our customers' needs and those of the environment.”
Anderson said Foodstuffs will give away 2 million long-life reusable bags to customers during the southern summer; introduce a 10 cent voluntary donation per plastic bag on Feb. 1, with the money going to environmental causes; and continue a 5 cent rebate for reusable bags sold in some stores.
Countdown Managing Director Dave Chambers said it is “the right time to take the lead [and] phase-out single-use plastic carrier bags. This will remove 350 million plastic bags [annually] from our waste stream and environment.”
Chambers said Countdown has tracked customer sentiment for two years and research shows 83 percent of customers support phasing out single-use plastic bags.
The rival New Zealand grocery chains' decisions to announce the phase out of bags echo their counterpart Australian chains, which made announcements within hours of each other on July 14.