Thursday, 22 October 2009

New World Scraps Plastic Bag Charge

Well done New World for deciding to axe its unpopular plastic bag levy for South Island customers. The supermarket chain has listened to its customers and dropped the controversial 5 cent per bag charge at its 40 South Island supermarkets. The decision follows a similar backtrack at its North Island stores last month.

The 5c levy was introduced by Foodstuffs in August, across all 3 of its supermarket brands (New World, Pak 'n Save, and Four Square). Rival supermarket operator, Progressive Enterprises, chose not to respond with a similar bag charge at its Countdown, Woolworths, and Foodtown supermarkets.

Foodstuffs says the New World policy resulted in a 65% reduction in plastic bag usage, but admits the backtrack is the result of a continued negative customer feedback. The company admits it did lose customers when bag charging was introduced, but claims this was balanced by gaining new customers.
"Individual customers objected saying they did not feel they should have to purchase plastic bags. Some were quite loud in their feedback. We have listened to that noise and stopped the levy."
Profits from the plastic bag sales were destined for "environmental charities", although Foodstuffs says similar donations will continue to be made by the company itself.

Interestingly Foodstuffs' plastic bag levy will continue at the company's Pak 'n Save and Four Square supermarkets, where apparently negative customer reaction has been less of an issue.

Maybe customers of the cut-price Pak 'n Save chain accepted the charge as part of the deal of getting cheaper groceries, but the same argument doesn't hold up for the small Four Square supermarkets.
As far as I know The Warehouse also still has its 10 cent bag levy in place (I have always tried to avoid the dodgy red sheds, long before this policy came in).

The bag charging policy as an incentive to reduce plastic bag usage is an interesting one. I note that overseas in the UK, and US Cities like San Francisco, stores offer customers a rebate of up to 10 cents for using their own bags.

Some people have suggested a return to the old brown paper bags, but research reveals paper bags actually generate 70% more air pollutants than plastic, and 50 times more water pollutants. It also takes 4 times as much energy to construct a paper bag, and uses 84 times as much energy to recycle.

The Green Party is again calling for the Government to legislate a mandatory levy on supermarket plastic bags, rather than leaving it up to individual companies and consumers to make their own decisions. Foodstuffs says it will continue to promote reusable supermarket bags as an option for customers.

* ODT - Foodstuffs drops charge for plastic bags

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  1. biodegradable plastic bags Says:

    The idea of charging 10 cents for every plastic bag used and the idea of giving 10 cents rebate are all brilliant ideas. They will surely promote reuse, recycle and reduce programs. I always use paper bags or bags made up of clothes so I can reuse them. It saves money and save our environment all at the same time.