Nelson supermarket wages war on plastic

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RNZ rnz.co.nz

A Nelson supermarket is stepping up the war on plastic by cutting it out completely in the fruit and vegetables aisles, bakery and the bulk bins.

Store owners Mark and Veronica A'Court.

Store owners Mark and Veronica A'Court.

Source: 1 NEWS

From 11 June, shoppers at Fresh Choice Nelson will only be offered paper bags for their produce purchases, and paper or recyclable bags will be dominant at the checkout.

Store owners Mark and Veronica A'Court said about 1.6 billion single-use plastic bags are used every year in New Zealand.

They said that was intolerable, and have come up with a plan that will remove 3000 plastic bags daily from their store.

"We've decided to go through and take plastic out of produce, which is the second biggest consumer of plastic in our store," Mr A'Court said.

He said paper bags at this point would be free, but those at the checkout would cost 10 cents for a small bag or 20 cents for a larger one.

Most of the cost in shifting to paper bags in the produce, bakery and even in the seafood sections should be offset by money saved on plastic at the checkout, Mr A'Court said.

But they were prepared to dip into their own pocket to make it work.

"If we have to spend a few thousands dollars a year putting paper bags into our stores for the greater good of what we think is the future, then we'll pay. We're hoping it's going to be more cost-effective for us than that, but we'll spend some money if we have to," Mr A'Court said.

It appears to be the biggest step so far by a New Zealand supermarket to reduce plastic. Waiheke Countdown stopped stocking single-use plastic bags in 2016, which set a national trend. Recently the chain announced a plan to introduce plastic-free aisles in its supermarkets.

'This is no small task'

Countdown general manager of corporate affairs, Kiri Hannifin, said it was looking at how it could reduce plastic, especially single use plastic, across the entire business.

"Looking at whether we could do plastic-free aisles has been raised as a possibility but this is no small task and as such we don't have a timeframe.

"We also don't want to have a plastic free aisle as a promotional stunt - we want to work meaningfully with our partners in the supply chain to reduce plastic and look for better replacements.

"Having an aisle free of plastic is certainly a goal, but it sits within the wider goal of a reduction of plastic throughout the store."

Countdown said it was looking at alternatives for vegetable and fruit bags.

Nelson's Green Party candidate at the last election and a big promoter of a more plastic-free world, Matt Lawrey, said the A'Courts had made a brave step.

"Not only are they once again leading the industry in a more sustainable direction, they're really putting Nelson on the map as a place where the environment matters. I really hope that other supermarkets follow suit, because if they all do, literally billions of plastic bags will be diverted from the waste stream," Mr Lawrey said.

New Zealand marine conservation organisation, Our Seas Our Future, said it was pleased to see that businesses, both big and small, were recognising the issue of marine pollution caused by single-use plastic.

Spokesperson Olivia Gallagher said changing consumer behaviour was one of the biggest challenges to phasing it out.

While Mr A'Court said the move was not without risk.

"It's a big change. We've been so used to picking up plastic bags, at random - whenever we buy something it comes in a plastic bag and it's just so easy, so convenient and I just feel that those days are over."

From next month shoppers at the store will have a choice of options at checkout, from paper bags to a borrowed "boomerang bag" from a bin at the store's entrance, a cardboard box or recyclable bag.

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