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Progressive 'could do better' over plastic bag use

25 May 2007

Progressive gets a 'could do better' on their plastic bag report card

A supermarket campaign aimed at getting consumers to cut down on plastic bag use has failed its first test with staff following through only one-quarter of the time, the Green Party says.

Green Party volunteers visited Progressive supermarkets 28 times since the chain launched its campaign to ask shoppers with three items or less if they really needed a bag. Out of those 28 trips, volunteers were only asked seven times if they wanted a bag, Spokesperson on Waste Nandor Tanczos says.

"While we applaud Progressives for launching this campaign when some other supermarkets have done nothing, it is not going to have any impact if their staff are not following through.

"All of our volunteers were prepared to take their items without a bag, but on most occasions the operators went ahead and bagged the items. Without reinforcement from retailers, consumers will find it very difficult to change their habits.

"It is in everyone's interest to discourage the use of plastic bags. Consumers win because the cost of the bags will no longer be hidden in the cost of their groceries, retailers win because they would no longer have the hassle of ordering and storing so many bags and the environment wins, because we would be reducing the thousands of tonnes of plastic waste we dump every year.

"I believe retailers need to take bold steps on this issue. Why not give people a real incentive to reject plastic bags? What about offering customers a discount every time they don't take a bag? Some British supermarkets give loyalty programme reward points to shoppers who refuse plastic bags.

"At present, responsible consumers refusing bags are subsidizing the cost of other people's groceries. "New Zealand's Packaging Accord aims to reduce plastic bags by 20% by 2008. To achieve this we are going to have to take firmer action. While Ireland's "plastax" of about 30 cents (â‚0.15) on each bag has led to a 90% reduction in use, I would prefer a positive approach rather than a punitive one," Nandor says.

Annually, 4 - 5 trillion non-degradable plastic bags are used internationally. In New Zealand, we use around a billion a year, which equates to 9,000 tonnes of plastic and 18,000 tonnes of CO2 produced.


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