Cardboard tags will replace plastic on Tip Top Bread, Burgen, Ploughman’s and other household brands sooner than expected after Fair Go’s 2020 Consumer Heroes put major bread bakers on the spot.
“We've developed something new and different, a cardboard bread tag, 100% made of recycled material and it's recyclable as well”, said Mark Bosomworth, NZ general manager for George Weston Foods, in a Fair Go interview with a trio of primary school students.
Consumer Heroes Amelia Foote-Webb, Jennika Kumar and Snigdha Raikar from Malfroy School in Rotorua were one of four teams selected by Fair Go to attempt to achieve change through consumer journalism.
Their issue was the polycarbonate closures on bread bags and the pollution they create.
“We researched it and discovered the plastic tags are really not very recyclable. Do we really have to have them at all or is there a better way?” asked Amelia, on behalf of the team.
When they contacted the major bakers, they learned George Weston Foods had been working on the alternative to plastic tags for its Australasian supply chain for four years.
It has just begun trialling the alternative in South Australia and had previously undertaken to replace plastic tags here by 2025.
The trio brought some healthy scepticism to the news.
“Were you going to do this anyway?”, asked Amelia.
The GWF executive replied that their interest had urged the company to reconsider and to bring forward its significant investment in the changeover.
“When we heard that three girls from a school in Rotorua had some pretty strong views on this, we did feel we should step things up a bit so we've put this in place pretty quickly because you’ve given us a nudge and we really thank you for that, well done girls,” said Mr Bosomworth.
As a result of the trio’s efforts, GWF will swap plastic for 18 million cardboard tags in the coming year and 75 million by the end of 2022.
The new cardboard tags will also feature the “best before” date in larger more legible print to address complaints from the public about how hard it can be to read.
GWF told Fair Go that consumers should start to see the tags on loaves from around March or April.
There will still be plenty of plastic tags on shelves. Rival baker Goodman Fielder has yet to disclose how it will meet its commitment to phasing out un-recyclable plastic bread tags by 2025.
Consumers who want to do more than bin their tags or use them to keep cables tidy around the home or office or to fix the odd broken jandal do have one solution right now.
“Bread Tags for Wheelchairs” is a grass-roots international effort to collect the polycarbonate tags and ship them to South Africa where they are processed into plastic furniture. Profits support the purchase of wheelchairs for those in need in South Africa.
Amelia, Jennika and Snigdha say they may now turn their focus from plastic tags to plastic bags with an eye to next year’s contest.
Fair Go runs the Consumer Heroes Challenge each year from Term 3, asking schools to encourage their students to highlight a problem they want to solve, work through some of the steps to solving it and pitch for the chance to work with the Fair Go team to report on that journey.
The four winning schools have each received a $1000 cash prize from TVNZ and a camera and printer package donated by Canon.