Call for BYO containers at delis
Thursday 19 July 2018
Media release for immediate use
Waste-free advocates call on supermarkets to allow BYO containers at delis
Hannah Blumhardt and Liam Prince of The Rubbish Trip; Rachel Benefield, founder of Plastic Free Kāpiti; Wellington-based waste advocacy group Waste-ed; and Kristy Lorson, the owner of zero waste business EarthSavvy and the founder of the 19,000 strong Facebook group ‘Zero Waste in NZ!’, are calling on Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises to reverse their policy of refusing BYO containers for over-the-counter purchases of seafood, butchery and deli items at supermarkets across New Zealand.
Currently, it's Plastic Free July. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have pledged to reduce single-use plastics for the month, in light of increasing concerns about global plastic pollution. Estimates suggest over 150 million tonnes of plastic has leaked into the world’s ocean already, though recent research warns that concentrations of micro-plastics on land are potentially 4 to 23 times higher than these marine concentrations. Plastic pollution presents acute threats to wildlife, but also risks for human health; studies have discovered plastic contamination in tap water across the world, and in common products such as salt and beer.
In Wellington, Waste-ed have launched the #saynobyo campaign for the month - encouraging the public to take BYO containers to cafes, takeaway outlets, butchers, delis and even supermarkets to get food without the packaging.
"Being able to BYO containers for over-the-counter groceries is a tangible way that the public can reduce their plastic use" says artist Rachel Benefield, who lives plastic-free with her family of five and is currently producing a graphic novel about plastic-free shopping.
Many outlets across New Zealand have already jumped on board. In Mount Albert, cafes and takeaway outlets have put up signs welcoming customers’ BYO containers to avoid takeaway packaging, thanks to Plastic Free Mt Albert. Waiuku Village Butchery recently blazoned their deli counter with a sign stating: "To any of our customers participating in Plastic Free July or wanting to reduce their plastic consumption, we will gladly put your meat in your own containers". On Tuesday, St Pierre's Sushi outlet announced a nationwide policy not only to accept BYO containers for sushi orders, but to give customers who BYO a 30c discount.
"The research we have conducted while producing zero waste shopping guides for the entire country confirms that most delis, butchers, and bakeries across New Zealand accept BYO containers", says Liam Prince from The Rubbish Trip, a project he runs with his partner Hannah Blumhardt, through which the couple deliver talks and workshops nationwide about how individuals can reduce their household rubbish.
However, major supermarket chains Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises are dragging their heels. Spokespeople from both chains recently clarified that the practice of BYO containers is prohibited at delis in New World, PAK'nSAVE and Countdown supermarkets. New World Howick is the only exception, with the store recently announcing in a Facebook post that it would trial accepting BYO containers for over-the-counter purchases of seafood and butchery goods.
The primary justification major supermarket chains offer for their refusal to accept BYO containers relates to hygiene and food safety obligations. However, the Food Act 2014 - New Zealand's primary legislation relating to food safety - contains no requirement that food outlets prohibit BYO containers.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Primary industries said that it is up to individual businesses to determine whether or not to accept BYO containers, and how to manage any potential safety risks.
This decision will vary depending on how an individual food trader interprets their duty to ensure that the food they sell is “safe and suitable”. Many retailers who accept BYO containers retain the right to reject a container that is visibly dirty or made of a porous material inappropriate for the food in question. While a business is undoubtedly within its rights to go further and implement a blanket ban, this measure exceeds the requirements of the legislation.
The international motto for this year’s instalment of Plastic Free July is #choosetorefuse plastic packaging. Those taking the plastic-free plunge are being encouraged to vote with their dollars and let supermarkets know they will not buy from businesses that do not provide low-waste options.
Kristy Lorson notes that for many of the 19,000 members of Zero Waste NZ!, a business’ acceptance of BYO containers is a deal breaker for whether or not they will shop there. “Supermarkets risk losing business with this policy. There are so many other outlets that already accept BYO containers for over-the-counter purchases of unpackaged foods; plastic-conscious customers will simply take their business elsewhere.
“To be clear, we’re not calling on supermarkets to ban the disposable plastic containers they offer customers. We’re simply asking that they value customer choice by allowing those customers who do want to reduce plastic, the option of being able to use a BYO container.”
Would you like to help in the campaign to encourage supermarkets to accept BYO containers? Here are some small actions you can take:
• Ask to talk with the Manager of your local New World, PAK’nSAVE or Countdown to let them know you support BYO containers at the deli.
• Use the customer feedback section of New World, PAK’nSAVE or Countdown websites to let the chains know you’d like to be able to BYO containers at the delis.
• Post a photo on social media of you holding your favourite reusable container with the hashtag #saynobyo, and tag in your local New World, PAK’nSAVE or Countdown.