Reducing Plastic Bag Usage

Reducing Plastic Bag Usage

Plastic Bags and what we are doing about them.

Foodstuffs has a two-pronged approached to reducing the impact of plastic bags by encouraging the use of reusable bags and offering a sustainable disposal option for customers who do use plastic bags.

Reducing Plastic Bag Usage

Foodstuffs recognises that plastic bags are not ideal from an environmental perspective as they are not accepted for recycling at kerbside and are damaging if they end up in the marine environment. In line with our aim to offer 100% recyclable solutions for our customers, we are focusing on reducing usage and providing a sustainable disposal route through our Soft Plastic Recycling at Store initiative.


To incentivise our customers to use reusable packaging, we charge for plastic bags in our PAK’nSAVE stores and offer our customers free cardboard boxes at many stores.  At both New World and PAK’nSAVE stores, we offer very competitively priced reusable bags at check out.  All these measures are encouraging our customers to ‘reduce and re-use.’

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October 2016 saw the launch of the reusable bag rebate in North Island New World stores. For every reusable bag the customer uses, they receive 5c off their shop up to a maximum of 50c per shop. The promotion has proved a big success with stores reporting reductions of between 10-20% of plastic bags being handed out. 

When we open new stores we usually offer reusable bags to customers free of charge for a limited time.  We run a similar promotion on Waiheke Island at our Four Square store as part of our annual support to the ‘Bag Free Day’ coordinated by the Island’s residents. 

Why don’t Foodstuffs use biodegradable bags or paper bags? 

There are many unsubstantiated claims from packaging suppliers around ‘degradability, biodegradability and compostability’. We regularly undertake research to help us decide on the best approach.  As part of the last bag review, we evaluated the merits of paper, biodegradable and compostable bags through life cycle analysis and reviewed research on supermarket customer disposal habits.  This concluded that most supermarket customers reuse plastic bags at least once (bin liner) before sending them off to landfill.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that biodegradable or compostable bags disappear in a landfill environment, as it is very different to a composting environment.  If they do break down without oxygen in a landfill, they release methane, which is a very damaging greenhouse gas, so the merits of switching to them are debatable.  Customers are unlikely to home-compost a biodegradable plastic bag.  The only benefit they do potentially offer is, if they end up in the marine environment, they may degrade quicker than a standard plastic bag.

In 2013, an Auckland supplier of ‘biodegradable’ bags was fined $60,000 by the Commerce Commission for claiming the bags degraded quickly in landfill, without supplying any scientific evidence to back this up.

A further issue with degradable or biodegradable plastics is that they are deemed a contaminant in the plastics recycling stream. Recycled plastics are used in the manufacture of a range of new products including street furniture and underground pipes. Having a degradable element to the material used completely undermines the quality and value of the new product and thus threatens the market for the collection and recycling of plastics.

Paper bags are made from a renewable resource which is good but they can be used less frequently and consume more energy and water in their manufacture and transportation than plastic bags. Some of our stores do offer them to customers as some customers prefer them.

The plastic bag we now use is a reduced micron (weight) LDPE bag that uses significantly less mineral oil to make than the bags we were using only a few years ago. It can also now be recycled via our special bins back at store, therefore ensuring our customers have a sustainable means of disposal.

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