Pile of packaging waste waiting to be recycled
Research report
12 September 2019

What are the best ways to cut packaging waste?

The Consumer guide to reducing your packaging consumption.

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Martyn R.
20 Mar 2021
plastic free

If you live in Palmerston North there is a grocery shop called Befree in the Square. No plastic packaging. It sells mostly bulk bin foods, but has some prepackaged products plus cosmetics. You can buy in provided paper containers or bring your own containers. Prices are higher than supermarkets but unfortunately there is always a price for being green (and a higher price for not being green which is always well disguised).

Eddie v.
19 Sep 2019
Bulk Bins

I am sure the supermarkets do have some waste to cover from the bulk bins, but not to the extent that they can justify charging so much more than the packaged products. My local charges about $4 per kg more for raw peanuts than packaged - I make my own peanut butter, so to cut packaging I buy peanuts from Bin Inn, which mysteriously manages to charge significantly less! I think the supermarkets are just paying lip service to cutting down on waste.

Peter H.
16 Sep 2019
Small packs are often cheaper

Over a few years of shopping at Pak'n Save and Countdown we found many products cheaper in smaller packs, often significantly so. Buying in bulk we found usually dearer than packaged.

I think the govt. should investigate modern incinerators. Apparently plants exist with very low emissions AND they produce significant amounts of electricity.

Still, count your blessings: we now live in rural Thailand. Tap water is not drinkable, there is no waste collection at all in our village and there is not one sewage treatment plant in the whole country. On the up side, you get paid to recycle cardboard and some packaging.

Graeme C.
16 Sep 2019
Receipts

Another option would be to e-mail the receipt. They already have my e-mail address through my New World and AA/Countdown cards. A health shop in Auckland e-mailed my receipt and I had it before leaving the shop.

Barbara H.
15 Sep 2019
Receipts

Most often I say no receipt, but the checkout prints it out anyway and the operator bins it. Can I change this by how/when I request that no receipt be given?

Consumer staff
16 Sep 2019
Re: Receipts

Hi Barbara,

We’d suggest mentioning that you don’t need a receipt before you make your payment. However, if it’s over the set dollar threshold, there may be nothing you or the operator can do to prevent the receipt from being printed. You’d hope if a supermarket is throwing out lots of unwanted receipts each day, it may spur innovation. Another idea would be to email the supermarket – or contact them on social media – asking them to re-think their systems, or at least downsize their receipts. We’ll keep in touch with the supermarkets and monitor their progress.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Angela F.
15 Sep 2019
Plastic stickers on fruit!

These are my bug-bear. Why????? Is it because check-out staff can't recognise which fruit is which? As a keen composter, it's easy to miss these little beggars and they end up in my pile no matter how careful I am. They seem completely and totally unnecessary.

Barbara H.
15 Sep 2019
Fruit stickers

Yummy stickers get collected and sent to my local school who collects tham and sends them in for sports equipment. Stickers also drive me crazy. As I unpack my shopping I take them all off as I put them in the fruit bowl. Still a mad moment but at least it is only once every shop!

Eddie v.
19 Sep 2019
Stickers

They drive me nuts as well - we take them off when we bag the fruit, and leave them at the supermarket!!

Iain R.
06 Oct 2019
Sick of stickers

Something we feel frustrated by also! More micro-plastic.

J W.
15 Sep 2019
email receipts?

Countdown knows who I am (by my onecard). It would be simple to automatically email every receipt loaded against that card to me. Thermal paper is such a poor medium for receipts anyway.

Peter - Power To Care
16 Sep 2019
Brilliant idea!

Any store with a loyalty card should be able to do this... with any luck it should arrive in my inbox before I leave the store.

John T.
14 Sep 2019
"Can be dropped off for recycling" link

Unfortunately the link on waste drop off leaves you none the wiser - certainly no information on disposal of household batteries.

Barbara H.
15 Sep 2019
Battery recycling

A couple of times a year, there is a drop off drive advised for all electronic items plus batteries in the Hutt Valley, so I save them up and do a job lot. Maybe this happens in your area?

Consumer staff
26 Sep 2019
Re: "Can be dropped off for recycling" link

Hi John,

Thanks for your feedback. We will have an article dedicated specifically to battery recycling going up on our website in the next few days.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff.

André
14 Sep 2019
False advertising with packaging

There are many products which are packaged in excessive packaging, so that it looks like you are getting a lot for your money. A popular vitamin C plastic container is only half full, and it's not due to settling (another common BS excuse). And that's not the only product that uses that trick. Manufacturers need to be held accountable, as they cause the waste, not the consumer.

Jane C.
14 Sep 2019
Bread bags

Must be one of the biggest plastic bag polluters. Bread sold in paper are the higher priced loaves. Countdown advise they have no plans to move to non-plastic packaging. If supermarkets insisted bakeries package their bread in paper it would take a lot of plastic out of the landfills.

Karen D.
14 Sep 2019
Recycling and reducing waste

Someone commented on RNZ recently that biodegradable plastic bin liners made with cornstarch can be a problem if you put wet stuff in the bin and take a while to fill it - the bin liner starts to disintegrate. And re buying from bins rather than buying packaged goods - one big plus with bins is that you can buy exactly what you need of a specialist item (maybe for a particular recipe) - so no waste.

L H.
14 Sep 2019
Supermarket Fuel Vouchers

I fail to see why Pak n Save (and probably New World) automatically give customers Z Energy Fuel Vouchers for 6c off per litre of fuel when we don't need a voucher to obtain 6c off at Z. Presumably this is a marketing ploy by Z who reward the Foodstuffs chain for handing them out? Waste of paper, ink, and more rubbish floating around the supermarket carpark.

Graeme C.
16 Sep 2019
Agreeed

I Agree, the bin at our local New World is full of fuel vouchers. Would be good to have an option not to print this voucher. We don't even have a Z Fuel Station which probably also confused people.

Lloyd B.
14 Sep 2019
Commercial compostable containers such as coffee cups with bio plastics

Bio plastics are green washing because although they can be composted in commercial composting plants, they contaminate the end product which then loses its organic qualification and then can't be used. Council transfer stations have to shift them to landfill

Peter K H.
14 Sep 2019
Receipts

I appreciate receipts generate more paper, but if you keep detailed accounts of grocery items, it is impossible to do so without the receipt. The receipts occasionally reveal overcharges or two items being rung up as three, or specials which are on the shelf price but have not been entered into the computer. Also, if you have only a few items you are carrying in your hand you need proof to show security that you have paid for them, especially if you are visiting several stores.

Alice
14 Sep 2019
Agree

You also need your receipt to check against bank or credit card statements to ensure their deductions are correct. I note that New World now have "e-receipts" which is a copy of your receipt available on their website if you have a Clubcard account. Useful for when you get home but not so much if you need proof of purchase for overcharged items, etc.

Celia B.
14 Sep 2019
ewaste

It would be good to hear from Consumer about ewaste and recycling.

Consumer staff
16 Sep 2019
Re: ewaste

Hello Celia,

Thank you for your comment. You can read more about E-Waste and recycling in our articles below:

https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/e-waste

https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/what-you-can-and-can-t-recycle

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Anne C.
14 Sep 2019
Corn starch bin liners

Are these liners as biodegrable as claimed?

Karen T.
15 Sep 2019
Avoiding bin liners

Avoid putting food waste into the bin. If it can't be home composted, put it in the freezer until rubbish collection day.
Putting clean (washed and dried) rubbish in a bin means no mess and no smell. Washing the bin is better than using liners .

Consumer staff
16 Sep 2019
Re: Corn starch bin liners

Hi Anne,

Thanks for your question. The answer depends on two things – first, whether the corn starch bag (and the rubbish inside) goes into a compost pile and second, whether the product has been tested and certified.

If the first answer is the bag is destined for the landfill, then we can’t be sure. Corn starch bags are often described as compostable, but the conditions in landfill are very different to a well-maintained compost pile – for example, the latter will be well aerated. Expert Janine Brinsdon told us if the corn starch bags do break down in the dump, they may release methane – which is a potent greenhouse gas. (As an aside, we haven’t found any studies analysing whether it’s better for the environment to use corn starch bins liners as opposed to plastic ones if you send your rubbish to the tip, though we’ll keep an eye out.)

If the corn starch bags end up in compost, we can only be sure they’ll biodegrade if they are certified as compostable. If you’re a home composter, we recommend you look for these home compostable symbols.

Unfortunately, the greenest solution may be to avoid single-use bin liners altogether. I hope this has helped somewhat!

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ